Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My First 100 Days Plan


I have spent a great deal of time contemplating how I would treat my first 100 days as a new administrator. I decided the best to organize my thoughts was to create an outline of my goals. This would serve as a blueprint of what I would like to achieve during the first half of the year. With that being said, I recognize that a good administrator is flexible and that plans can always be revised and edited as needed. The following are simply guidelines that I would like to implement.

Goal 1: I want to view our district from a multitude of angles. I want to spend time talking to central administration, board members, faculty, staff, parents and students to better understand how they perceive our district and my school in particular.

Goal 2: I want to discuss the question: What are our biggest opportunities and challenges? As I attempt to answer this question, I will survey all of the above mentioned people in order to collect data to understand the challenges and opportunities that face our school and district. In order to be an effective administrator, I know it is imperative to have a comprehensive understanding of these situations.

Goal 3: I want to answer the question: What’s missing from this picture? I have an interest in using social media to market my school. I would like to create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and YouTube videos to help tell my school’s story.   

Goal 4: I want to spend some time figuring out what my staff expects from me and my office. This would be through conversations with my colleagues and surveys that I send to them. This would help me know my staff’s biggest concerns so that I can search for ways to effectively address them.

Goal 5: I want to start building a team of “A” players. I want to create a group of Teacher Leaders that I can rely on to help push district and/or school initiatives. I am also a firm believer that part of a leader’s job is help foster more leaders. I would love to start or continue a teacher mentor program, where strong teachers are helping to instill positive and effective teaching styles to novice teachers.

Goal 6: I want to try and go for some “quick” wins. I already know I would like to help tell my school’s story by using social media. I want to use these avenues to show all the positive things that are going on in my school. I want the public to see how great my staff is. I firmly believe that social media is a tremendous way to do this.

Goal 7: I want to “Walk the Talk”. It is important to me that my staff see me in the halls, interacting with students. I will make it a priority to regularly visit classrooms, using this time to make my presence known to students and teachers. I will gladly assist teachers in reading circles,  science labs, or any other other classroom activities they invite me to join. I do not want the only time I enter their rooms to be when I am doing an observation.

Goal 8:  I believe I am at my best when I take care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually. This is why I want to remain involved in my own kids’ lives. I am very involved with my children’s after school activities and help assistant coach their soccer, basketball and baseball teams. I have been doing this for several years, and it is something I thoroughly enjoy being a part of. I believe that by establishing a work/life balance, I will be a better administrator, father and husband.

I have been formulating these goals for the last few weeks and I am certain that I will continue to revise and edit them periodically. I believe using these goals as a personal “checklist” will greatly assist me during my First 100 Days as I strive to help make my school the best it can be.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Did It for Me, So Why All the Guilt?

I hate missing days at school. I rarely call out. Sure, there is a random day I need to be home with one of my kids when they are sick, but I prefer to be in my classroom working with my students on a daily basis. I refuse to take vacations during the school year. In my opinion, vacations are to be taken when we have breaks in the calendar.

Twitter has helped me avoid leaving school for even Professional Development days or workshops. I try to convince my administration that I can get the same learning from participating in the numerous chats at night instead of missing a day of school. Actually, I find them a thousand times more informative than anything I have attended during school hours.

But, last week, I broke my own rule: I called out Thursday and Friday. The last two days of school.

See, my Grandfather died a week ago today. (Here is a link to his Eulogy that I wrote) We knew it was coming since he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer about six weeks ago. This did not make it easier to handle, however. I still attended our Dinner/Dance last week. This is a great event where our Eighth Graders get dressed up and have a great buffet dinner at a local catering hall. We have been holding this tradition for the last twelve years, and I am hopeful it is able to continue.

I was able to guide our students through Graduation practices and the actual ceremony last week as well. The Graduation Ceremony went off without a hitch. The graduates looked great in their blue and yellow gowns. We had several speakers and handed out special awards. There were smiles (and tears) all around.

Why am I feeling guilty? I missed saying goodbye to my students. I missed seeing them walk out our doors for the last time. I missed signing yearbooks and shaking their hands. I missed the pictures and the tears that usually accompany them. I would have loved to be there with them during their last couple of days, but I just could not do it. I tried talking myself into attending those days, but to no avail.

I hope they understand why I was not there. I hope they enjoyed their last couple of days. I would have given anything to be there with them, but I just could not go through with it. I wish them all the luck in the world. I hope they have a great high school career. I hope they remember what we taught them while they were with us. But, more importantly, I hope they hold onto the great memories they gathered over the years at our school. Best of luck, Class of 2014...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Calming

Sunday nights have always been a problem for me. I do not sleep well. I have a tough time shutting my mind off with the things that need to be done for the week. I read in a blog post that writing things down will help "ease your mind". What have I got to lose, another restless Sunday night with little or no sleep? I figured I would give it a shot...

I am excited about this week because we are trying something different with our 6th and 7th graders. We have created projects that are focused around a couple of Essential Questions. We will allow the students to choose a partner they will want to work with, but we will pair them up with a group of our choosing, giving them a group of four. Within this group of four, we will ask the students to investigate a series of questions that cover subjects across the curriculum. They will be able to collaborate with each and produce a presentation that will be given the last two days of school.

In addition, we will not have the students change classes. They will work with their group the entire day, regardless of the bell schedule. That's right, our students will not be changing classes. After a lot of discussion, we decided the teachers would be the ones to roam around the classrooms, assisting students with whatever they needed. We did not want the bell schedule interfering with the chance to learn for a longer period of time.

I am excited because we will be putting the students in charge of the class. They will be in control of where they take their learning. We will be there to support, question and provide feedback, but we will not be in the front of the room. We will be able to roam amongst the groups, providing assistance when needed. I am interested to see how changing this dynamic improves the learning of our students.

Will there be roadblocks? Absolutely. Will there be groups that will need help guiding their own learning? Of course, they are only 12 and 13 years old. But, I am hoping that allowing the students to be in control of their own learning will have them excited about working this late in the school year.

I am hopeful that this is the beginning of more changes we will implement for next year. I would love to see projects of this kind implemented during our Focus Periods next year where students have time to dive into areas they are passionate about. Give them time to dive into areas of interest. What a noble concept, school being about learning!

Here's to a great week of student centered learning for our students. I am excited to see what final products their imaginations create. What a great job I have...this excited to get into my room, even during the last two weeks of school!

What are you doing to keep your students engaged these last few days of school?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Trip Around Europe

Hello Bloggers, My name is Aaliyah, and I decided to share with you my amazing trip around Europe to five different cities.The names of these five cities are Verdun, France being my first city, Marne, Belgium being my second city, Ypres, Belgium being my third, Berlin, Germany being my fourth and last but not least Stalingrad, Russia. I met many nice people and tried some food that was just plain gross. I tried other foods that were actually pretty good. Who doesn't love traveling around city to city seeing things you never saw before?  Come on, am I right everyone? I had the opportunity to bring along my dad and two sisters to have two weeks of family fun time.

All together my trip was three thousand two miles.You're right! You're thinking, what insane person would drive that long around Europe? Well you're reading about me right now. For this trip I drove a 2012 Ford Mustang, which is very cheap on gas and it fits, surprisingly, three other people besides the driver very comfortably, along with all of our luggage.The total cost for fuel for a two week trip was $2,783.21.To rent this car,which I did, costs $74.62 for 14 days. For one day the cost is $5.33, so that times 14 will give me $74.62 for the car rental.

My trip involved many things to set up, which stressed me out! Figuring out a cost of food for three extra people plus myself and the hotel was a lot of money, too. I stayed in five different hotels. My first hotel was a one star hotel for three days, my second hotel was a two star hotel for two days, my third hotel was for three days and was a three star hotel, my fourth hotel was a four star hotel for two days, and my last hotel was a five star hotel for four days.The price for the hotels was $2,070$, but it was worth it because they were lovely hotels. I can still taste the food till this day because it was just that good. Some days I went to fancy restaurants, other days I went to plain restaurants, and other days I wanted to buy something cheap and bought from a fast food restaurant. To calculate the amount of money I spent on food I used this formula: 4 meals times x amount of money = amount of money spent at that specific restaurant.  My total amount on food was $121.50 which in my opinion its not that bad of a price. I'm not a millionaire, but I saved up to go on this trip. You all are probably wondering when is she going to tell us the total amount for this trip? Well, the cost was $4,980.04 for a two week trip bringing along three people while travelling around Europe for two weeks.

One of my teachers said I should become a travel agent or talk about cheap vacations on TV.

sixth grade zoo project

Dear, whomever is reading this, our sixth grade math class just recently been assigned to make a project about a zoo we have to create from our head and choose a location, and  animals, also we had started with 6,000,000 dollars to spend! Every student had to spend at least 95% of the money. Some sixth graders may have ended up with no money left, around 15,000 dollars or around 5,000 dollars left. all of these end up with at least 95% or more money spent.

Our group was one of the groups assigned to make a zoo project. We had a choice of multiple types of animals to choose from to put in our zoo with only spending 6,000,000 dollars. We ended up with 5,000 dollars left out. The animals we chose were apes, whales, penguins, insects, and an aquarium. We had to go through a lot of tough choices to spend the right amount of money. We had to get rid of animal exhibits!

I think this project improved my, our, thinking for math, like perimeter and area. Also adding and subtracting for the money we spent, and living within a budget. In my opinion this project was fun, easy and educational. Fun, because we used creativity and actually used our heads. Easy, because all we really had to do was add, subtract, find the perimeter and multiply. I think this project was worth doing again and again and again. I also think you should do this project.

Sincerely, a random sixth grader

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cross Country in 40 Days

          Out of all of the projects and classwork papers I have completed throughout the school year, this project seemed to stand out. The project consisted of picking 5 destinations (cities) in the U.S that you wanted to visit; however, those cities also had to intertwine with U.S history. After you have chosen your preferred destinations, you have to figure out how many miles it would take to go round trip. Starting and finishing at Philadelphia, the stops I made along the way included, Austin, Texas, Sana Fe, New Mexico, Los Angeles, California, Portland, Oregon, and Charleston South Carolina. This trip was a sightseeing trip and like you would in a realistic situation, you had to figure out how much it would cost to eat, stay at the hotels, fuel your car, and rent a car.
          This entire project was at each individual's pace which worked out extremely well for me. I can go as fast as I wanted without having to wait, while I also could take time on specific parts of the project I might have been confused about. While this project tied in with U.S history, it not only taught me pre-algebra, math, and setting proportions, it also included a life lesson that I will know for a life time. Time management and being wise with your money are crucial understandings that I will need to know in the future. For example, I didn't want my trip to be a year long, and I also didn't want to pick the Jeep (the most expensive car available to drive my 7,650 mile journey) because it was a cool car.
          The math needed to finish this project is tedious and hard. The fact that this project had multiple steps really encouraged me to try and get one step done each day and to strive for two. The pleasure I received during this project was form part 2. In this section you had to figure out how many miles per gallon your car could go.  The reason why is because I feel as if I worked the hardest on this part over all of the others. The math needed to complete this portion was meticulous and I was intrigued even more each car I completed. Before the completion of this project, I was forced to face rough patches along the way. The hardest part might seem silly to you;nevertheless, it was pretty difficult for me. Sometimes choices are good and they allow you to do what you want; however, a bit more boundaries might have helped me finish this task a bit faster. Being able to pick your own cities was actually the hardest part for me because I am not very quick at picking choices. With over thousands and thousands of cities all over the United States,  to only pick five was a bit arduous.
          Overall, this project broadened my horizons and helped learn about math, social studies, and daily life situations. To be able to do projects similar to this one would be great because I really enjoyed everything involved with it. From the Civil War to the Battle of Fort Sumter, the cities I chose tied in perfectly with U.S history, while they also were cities that I would want to visit in real life.