Saturday, March 27, 2010

Twin Wonder

Walking toward the front door a few days before Spring Break last week, I watched as one of our 8 sets of twins in the school linked hands and walked out the front door together. Next to me was their mother, a wonderful woman of great character and deep insight, who shared with me that she doesn't even think they are conscious of the hand-holding. They'll be walking along and, it seems, their hands automatically find each other. She says they've always done this. When I ask if they get along at home, she looks at me like all the rest of the parents look at me when I ask this question, as if I have gone mad. No, she says, sibling rivalry still runs strong through their veins, as it does with all other brother and sister teams. And they are most definitely a team, she informs me. At third grade, they are nine years old, and have recently taken to teaming up against their mother. If mom is mad, they will whisper quietly amongst themselves, cross their arms and stare across the room at her. Forever co-conspirators. Forever sisters-in-arms.

I think it's cute, in a way. Mom smiles at me and I know from her look that she does, as well, but she can't let the twins know this. She's doomed if she does. Doubly-doomed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday, March 12; 11:01pm

While I sit here waiting for my family to come home, I think of the reasons why I have, perhaps, been waking during the night lately. I usually sleep like a rock. It is unusual for me to wake at all and I am concerned that it is because of something hanging over me. A cloud about to burst.

I had a conversation with a wonderful family last night after our annual Spring Chorus Concert. They had come to see their 4th grade daughter sing, and had stuck around afterward for the ice cream. It was a combination night - concert, book fair and ice cream social. A great turnout, overall. Anyway, we struck up a conversation over a "ribbing" I had given their daughter, teasing her over a joke she had played on me. It was all really quite funny, and I cherish the relationships I have with the families in my school community. We got to talking about families and cultures, and eventually I asked them if they had to do it all over again (they are from Mexico and had raised their two older children, for a good number of their formative years, in Mexico; the 4th grader has grown up thus far in the United States public education system), would they do it the same way, or would they stay in Mexico? Raise their family in Mexico?

Mom answered almost immediately: Mexico. Dad became quite passionate and went into great detail to explain his position. Everything he has is because of the opportunities the United States has afforded him. He wanted to assure me that, throughout his story, he meant no disrespect toward Americans or the United States. I assured him I was not easily offended. Feeling comfortable, he pressed on, explaining that he felt it very important for his children to understand that they were Mexican. They were living in the United States, and felt a connection with the United States and other Americans, but they were most definitely Mexican.

He began to explain to me that he felt like kids in the United States seem different than kids in Mexico. He couldn't quite come up with the word, so I went out on a limb: "spoiled?" I asked. Yes, he said. That was it. Kids in the United States seemed more spoiled than kids in Mexico. Kids in the United States (some, not all, he was sure to point out) seem to take things for granted, including their parents, as evidenced by the way many kids talk to and treat their parents these days.

We did not get to finish our conversation, as I was pulled away to conduct the book raffle and thank people for coming out tonight. I understood where they were coming from, though, and vowed to continue the conversation. It is intriguing to me. I wonder just how different kids in other countries are from kids in America. I wonder about kids and families coming to America to find the "good life," do they ever find it? Is it all they hoped and dreamed for? And what happens when kids begin learning in our public education system? What happens to the bond between the family? Do they begin thinking in different languages? Does this do something to the deep, personal connection to heritage?  I vowed to find out.

I found the family after the raffle was over and asked them if they would be interested in continuing our conversation. Of course they would, they said. We shook hands, I gave the kids hugs goodbye, and we parted for the evening. On Monday I will call to invite myself over for dinner.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday, March 5

March 5, 10:10pm

Long few days, wish I'd had more time to write.
ISAT Week.
Enough said, for anyone who understands what state testing week is like in a public school: Discipline gets put on hold (except for the extreme cases, of which there was only one), emails go unanswered, projects have to wait, classroom walkthroughs thin out, and the office is turned into "ISAT Central." We all do our best not to let the world stop during this week, but with pressures coming from all angles to succeed on this one, it's hard not to.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday, 9:00pm

Went to see Bob Marzano speak today. Drove two hours to get there, and it was worth every minute of it. The discussion was mostly on assessment and standards-based grading. We will initiate a standards-based report card committee in the district at the start of next year.

It was good to get out out for the day. The conference was invigorating, Marzano is an excellent speaker, and I am refreshed and ready for Friday. It is important for us to leave the building every now and then in the name of personal professional development. I missed the kids today, but it was good to get out and surround myself with professionals who are in the same boat as me, listen to their stories.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday, 9:28pm

Can't believe there was no time to blog today, but there really wasn't. Talked to my wife at about 4:00pm after having kissed her goodbye at 5:30 this morning. I still hadn't eaten anything save a handful of peanuts and a sticky piece of candy a first grader pulled from her pocket.

I ate it, though. I was hungry.

Learned that one of my little girls had to go back in to the hospital to have a tube inserted into her chest. Two weeks ago she had surgery and had a piece of her lung removed. I spent a lot of time in her classroom today. Her friends are worried about her. I don't know how to comfort them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, 10:00pm

Sitting at home tonight, watching "16 & Pregnant" in an attempt to take my mind off of events from the day and realizing that this show is probably not the way to do so... I have yet another disciplinary situation tomorrow that I'm not looking forward to tackling, boxes and boxes of ISAT materials arrived today that need to be sorted, stacked and delivered, and I worry that the kids who watch this show will find it cool to be disrespectful.

Tuesday, 7:20am

District Admin meeting last night.  First item on the docket – Budget Cuts.  I am taking this news particularly hard.  We are looking at a $600 dollar per child reduction in state aid next year; not especially good news, as we are already well below average in funding already.  Became more depressed as the meeting wore on, discussing probable areas that would be cut. 

                Nonetheless, we must always remember that no amount of money or “things” can replace an excellent teacher.  Much research has shown that the teacher has more direct impact on a child’s education than any other school-related factor.  We must not let things we cannot control keeps the cogs of education from churning. 

          "That is the difference between good teachers and great teachers: good teachers make the best of a pupil's means; great teachers foresee a pupil's ends." ~~ Maria Callas


Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, 12:50pm


Late for articulation meetings this afternoon.  I am supposed to sit in for 5th graders going to 6th.  Lunchtime exploded.  Again.  Jorge was running around trying to kiss girls, a teacher needed information on FMLA (and she needed it right then), someone wanted to talk to me about their evaluation, and I had to go and extract a 1st graders from recess.  He refused to leave and was running from the supervisor.  I never would have run after him.  By the time I got out there, he was sitting on a pile of snow with his coat off, shirt hanging off his shoulder, nose running all over the place.  I picked his coat off the ground, helped him put it on, wiped his nose with the extra tissue I always keep in my pocket, and put my arm around him.  The supervisor, I’m sure, was angered that I was showing him affection, but I did not need to run after him.  And he came inside for me.  Lesson learned.  Oh, and then I called the truancy officer to come and take him home for the afternoon.  I thought my brief check-in with him this morning would be enough.  Not every day, I guess.

9:00am Monday

9:00A.M.  Debating to have one more cup of coffee or not.  Deciding against it in favor of making the rounds and checking in with some kids.  I started this a while back – “check-in/check-out” – with a few of my students.  They are mostly boys, for some reason.  One of them get dropped off every morning by our district’s truancy officer.  His parents don’t have a working car.  He is in first grade.  I find that if I don’t check in with him every morning, his day quickly goes from bad to worse.  For future reference in these writings, I will call him Allen. 
I am also listening to a conversation in the outer office about our paper supply (It’s the end of February and we’re out of white paper).  People are wondering why we’re out of paper and if there is more coming.  One of the office secretaries tells her the local Wal-mart has it on sale. 


Okay, so emailing to my blog works.  That is pretty cool.  I am here, sitting at the Round Table in my Office.  My tie is not yet done up, but the coffee is made.  I have butterflies in my stomach because I am looking over my calendar for the day, my list of things-to-do that I created yesterday, and realized I forgot to prioritize them.  Doug Reeves would not be happy with me.  As he points out, I need to break my tasks down into prioritized lists…  Until I do this, my butterflies will continue to flutter. 


I hope to post throughout the day.  Must go tie the tie.  It is always the last thing I do in the morning…

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Later That Day

Okay, so later that morning, after the phone call with the parent (turned out it wasn't so bad after all), I ended up racing down the hallway to cover a duty. It was 8:00 and the teacher who was supposed to be on duty called to say she was stuck in traffic and wouldn't be in until the first bell rang. I was going to have to cover the duty. Which wouldn't have been so bad, except for the fact that on my way there one of my 6 first grade teachers stopped me to say that her ceiling was leaking and that it felt like it was about 100 degrees in there. I said, "Of course it's leaking. It wouldn't be leaking if it was 20 degrees." She gave me a blank stare and I realized I was thinking out loud, all the while still moving away from her, needing to get to my post. I pulled my radio off my hip and she nodded, knowing that I would call the custodian. Not that this would take care of anything.

I think people are used to seeing me running down the hallway, always off to the next thing. That still doesn't stop them from stopping me to ask if I have a minute. I never understood this, yet I do. I mean, who else are they going to tell? I've always wanted to ask if it looks like I have minute, but I realize there is just no way this can come out sounding even remotely professional. All I ask, however, is that they write it down in addition to telling me. I will never be able to remember the hundreds of things I need to remember unless I have it in writing. When I first started asking people to do this, they looked at me questioningly, no doubt wondering if I was capable of this job. I have since moved beyond their befuddled looks, knowing that if it is to get done, I must have a written reminder. More later, friends. Wait till you hear what happened next...

Above is a picture of the hallway down which I went running, and continue to traverse nine million times daily. I don't really run, though. Someone once told me that if the leader runs, someone will think there is a fire somewhere, thus causing them and everyone else to run as well. I haven't tested this theory out, but it could be true.

Tequila and the Mitten

And then the next day I noticed a mitten. It was hanging above the same classroom lockers. Behind it, hidden up on a shelf in the teacher's room, was a box. What was that word? Tequila?

Oh boy. I guess I'll be spending more time in the classroom than out of it...

The Shoe

Second grade shoe clipped above a locker.

A New Direction

It is Sunday. I have brought home a stack of work and arranged it on the dining room table in neat, orderly piles. It has not been touched, though I know I need to get through it. At least some of it. But there is a thought playing out over and over in my head and I sit down to read, or write this damn blog, and my mind keeps reverting back to that nagging thought. So I do some research, get up to pour more coffee, stop to let the dog out the back door, and sit back down again until I hear the scritch-scratch at the glass. He's letting me know he wants to come back in, though he's only been out long enough to stretch his long, muscular legs.

And so I come back to my resting point at the table, my son keeps asking me to come and watch his progress on our Wii - he is addicted to Super Mario Bros. I can't help but feel guilty about letting him sit in front of the video game for the next hour (or two) while I try and pound out some words. I try and rationalize it all away by convincing myself that he's doing what he wants to do, and I'm doing what I want to do, so it all must come out in the wash... right?

So here is a typical day for me last week. Enjoy, because my plan is to blog my daily experiences as an elementary school principal. Thus the title of this post: A New Direction. Because I need one.

The alarm goes off and I really don't want to get up but Louie (my 125 lb. English Mastiff... he's not done growing. He's only 11 months old) has made his way up on my bed and the warm breath in my ear that I thought was my wife's is really his. I get up and tackle my morning ritual.

Downstairs, the kids are having cereal and arguing over who will get the last yogurt in their lunch today. I solve this problem (I am a principal, after all) by putting it into my own lunch sack. After kissing everyone goodbye and wishing them all a wonderful day (for my 13 year old, this means hoping she has a day without tears over the next friend-break-up-or-boy-dilemna-or-the-teacher-is-ignoring-me" issue.

I am just about to work and realize that I have forgotten my lunch on the island in the kitchen. Again.
Thus prompting a renewed fight over the yogurt...

Unlocking the office door, I am the first one here (besides the custodian) and am able to find a few golden moments of silence in which to make the coffee and maybe even take one precious sip before the chaos begins... It is orderly chaos. Really, it is. I'm not kidding. I really do know what I am doing... Really.

The phone rings on my cluttered desk. I take a peek at the caller i.d. display. It's the parent I forgot to call back in my haste to get to the board meeting the night before; the one that didn't go into closed session until 9:15pm, thus finding me rolling into the driveway at almost 10:00.
So here we go.
I answer the phone.

To be continued...

Don't worry, it really will be continued. I'm only at 7:05am, after all. But I need more coffee. And Louie needs to go out again.