Assistant Principal Corner #8 SEL Viewpoints

Ap Rocks

There are so many thoughts, ideas, and concerns regarding SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) in schools these days that many can feel very overwhelmed by it all. Many students are coming to school with an array of social and emotional issues and schools are trying very hard to meet their needs but it can be difficult. With tight budgets and soaring costs, many schools struggle to meet all the educational needs and provide their students will fully funded programs and staffs. I can honestly say with over 25 years in education, I have never seen so many students diagnosed with anxiety or depression. We always talk about providing quality interventions and SEL programs for our students which is very justified but what about the root cause of all these issues? I am certainly not an expert in SEL but Here are a few ideas that can possibly help.

  1. 10 Tips to help raise more resilient kids 
  2. A ink between too much cell phone use and teen anxiety
  3. Help kids with self-regulation
  4. Social and Emotional Learning Strategies for Parents-Edutopia
  5. Ensure kids are getting enough free play

 

I certainly hope these ideas from several experts are helpful and through comprehensive education and school-wide education, we can SEL learningstart to reduce the social emotional problems facing so many young students today.

Welcome Back New & Veteran Teachers

Teach Learn

With another school year upon us, I was thinking about all the great educators I have had the pleasure working with during my career and how much the teaching profession has changed. Certainly, the academia learned in our college/university education classes helps build a foundation, but in my opinion there is no substitute for full-time teaching experience and the ongoing interactions with faculty, students, and parents/guardians. Parents have always wanted the best for their kids and as educators we must deliver. I honestly believe a great teacher is worth their weight in gold and although it is a tough job, it is extremely rewarding.

I have been very fortunate to interact with many dynamic school administrators over the years and am fortunate so many were willing to help me provide both new and returning teachers with some good advice/tips for this upcoming school year. Thank you very much to all those listed below. Personally, I wish all new and returning teachers the very best and will share these two tips; Always model what you want to see from your students such as being a life-long learner and be fair and consistent with them. They really understand when the proverbial playing field is not level. 

William Burkhead- Principal Monomy Regional H.S. -“School’s should be places where we treat kids like they are our own.  A place where they are loved, disciplined, respected, trusted & challenged with high expectations.”

Sam Francera- Asst. Professor, Ed. Leadership, William Paterson University-“Getting better requires patience, persistence, and professionalism. Model these attributes in your daily interactions with students, parents, and colleagues to improve learning for all students.”

Eileen Donahue- Assistant Principal Auburn H.S.-“It all comes down to the 3 R’s: Relationships, Relationships,Relationships. Build them early and build them often. Build them with your students, with their parents, with community stake holders and with fellow faculty members and staff. They will pay dividends tenfold when the time comes to have difficult conversations. It is much easier to broach difficult topics when it is not the first time that you have ever really spoken to someone.”

George M. Farro-Assistant Superintendent Whitman-Hanson RSD-“Always be who you are bc the job of a teaching and loving students is hard enough.”

Ross Thibault-Principal Dartmouth High School-“Never lose track of the “why”—the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the lives of young people and always remember that success is a mindset!”

Lytania Mackey- Director of Technology Swampscott Public Schools-“Classroom management starts day one by building relationships and reinforcing expectations. If you don’t do this you’ll pay for it in December. Don’t worry about the content – worry about getting to know them and them know you.”

Brian McCann-Principal Case High School-Here are two of my mantras: 1. “Make decisions involving students like they were your own children.” 2. “You do not need anyone’s permission to be awesome today.”

Patrick Larkin-Assistant Superintendent Burlington Public Schools-“Have a self-care plan worked out prior to the start of school with attention to sleep and wellness time prioritized in your week. It’s like the analogy on the airplane, adults need to take the oxygen first or they will not be able to take care of the children. If you are not ensuring your own physical and mental health first then you won’t be able to fully support your students.”

Paul Vieira-Assistant Superintendent Ashland Public Schools-Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate, we ask our kids to do it, we want you to do it too. Your success and that of our kids rests on your ability to communicate when you need help or are unsure of things.”

Henry Turner- Principal Newton North High School-“Spend more time listening than talking. Get out of your office and be with people. Spend time with kids outside of the classroom…Go to the cafeteria and go on a field trip. Have fun.”

Joe Scozzaro- Assistant Principal Duxbury High School-“Be transparent with your students about what you don’t know and embrace the role of learner. Your job is to create and manage the conditions in which students learn—not to know everything about your content.”

Chris Jones- Principal Whitman Hanson Regional High School-“Education is not all about you teaching. It’s about students learning. Remember that learning is a personal experience so let students have that experience by offering relevant, engaging topics. Give choice and support student agency because standardized assessments and curriculum are not always a completely accurate measurement or creator of growth and learning.”

Bill Chaplin- Principal Shepard Hill Regional High School– “Always begins and end with relationships – with students, Fellow Staff,and community – Connect passion with content and mastery, and how this all connects to your students real world today.”

John Clements-Principal Nipmuc Regional High School-“Keep your focus on creating a culture of learning, not a culture of teaching. Although this may sound challenging, remember that little action steps have a huge impact. Simple ideas like tracking your talk time, trading a dominant teaching wall for a “wonder wall”, putting lessons “on-demand” so kids can choose the lesson they want/need, and creating formal ways for kids to give you feedback on your lessons are great starting points to create learning environments defined by reflection, growth, agency, and inquiry for all!”

Lucas Giguere- Assistant Superintendent Franklin Public Schools-“In my experience, the best classroom management strategies aren’t founded on strict rules but through establishing positive relationships between and among students, modeling high expectations for the respectful behavior you expect of your students and providing high-quality instruction that engages them in authentic tasks. The rest will take care of itself. My mentor told me to keep ”Next Year” notes in the form of a running log to capture the lessons learned and ideas to improve moving forward. It served me well. Best of luck!”

Kip Lewis- Assistant Principal King Phillip Regional High School-“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” ~Wilma Rudolph

Assistant Principal’s Corner #7

It has been a few years since I have posted an Assistant Principal Corner and believe  my perspective has changed a bit since first becoming an Assistant Principal. For those that want to switch from teaching to administration, it is a great career change but is not for everybody. Not everyone can be a great teacher and this goes for administration as well. From my experience and interactions with many colleagues, I would like to share a few thoughts on what I believe it takes to be an effective Assistant Principal. A very wise and seasoned veteran administrator once told me that if an AP tries to be liked by all, they probably will be ineffective and never be able to promote needed change and growth. My thoughts below are in no particular order.

  1. Be visible and support the kids. Saying you support students and actually being at their events are two separate things. Students are smart and know sincerity when they see it. Yes, this is a time commitment but is part of the job and is needed to build relationships.
  2. Be an instructional leader. The days of just dealing with operational issues within the building and discipline are long gone. How do you help your principal with his/her academic vision and how do you initiate new ideas/strategies to promote instructional growth?
  3. Model what you want to see in the building. If we expect students and staff to take educational risks and try new things, we must be willing to do it ourselves. We can’t expect growth if we are not willing to keep learning and sharing what we learn with others. Change is always difficult but necessary so students can be better prepared for an ever-changing global society. Be a transformational leader.
  4. Be transparent, have integrity, demonstrate professionalism, and be loyal. All of these leadership traits are extremely important. Loyalty must be given and also received. Leadership teams must be loyal to each other and not get caught up with school-wide politics.
  5. Your decisions must be made in the best interest of your students but support your teachers and staff. If they make mistakes, discuss it behind closed doors. Praise in public but criticize in private. Your decisions will not always be favorable and surely will alienate someone, but you can’t worry about trying to please everyone so just make the best decision according to the information at hand and from your experience. No two people look at things exactly through the same lens.

6. Constantly be in classrooms to observe teachers. Give honest and descriptive feedback to them. If you have any concerns, it is important to be able to give them steps to correct those areas not just give criticism. The majority of teachers work very hard to plan fun and engaging lessons and they put in many extra hours, so our feedback needs to be useful and relevant to help them continue to grow as professionals. We can always find at least one positive thing in a lesson even if it wasn’t a strong lesson that particular day. On the other hand, failing to address ineffective teaching is not fair to our students and does them an injustice

7. Constantly work on being an active listener. This is an important skill that some people are better at than others. I believe we can always improve in this area but it takes practice.  Certainly, an area I am still working on.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Developing a strong professional learning network (PLN) can provide innovative ideas to create new practices as well as support from colleagues that may have faced challenges that you are presently dealing with. Being a school administrator is not easy so seeking advice from others is a must if you want to be successful. Social media such as Twitter is an excellent resource but also face-to-face opportunities such as committees and conferences are very beneficial as well.

 

Vaping In Schools

No smoking No Vaping

As a school administrator, it’s important to not just help prevent unwanted and/or illegal substances from coming into and being used in your building but also to inform and educate students, parents, and your community about these various substances and the negative impact they can have on students. During my career, I have unfortunately had to deal with several young men and women trying various substances in school. It is difficult to stay ahead of new trends as students try new drugs and the various methods in which to take them.

In my opinion, students that willingly use drugs in school and/or are in possession of drug paraphernalia need consistent and firm consequences to send a message to others that school buildings will not be a place for this type of behavior. Schools need to be a professional environment where students learn the skills needed to be college/career ready and successful and productive citizens that demonstrate respect for themselves and for others.

From doing reasearch and speaking with several colleagues that are school administrators in other districts in Massachusetts and from my own experience, I would say that E-Cigarettes/Vapes are the latest trend that students are trying to use unwanted, harmful, or illicit substances in schools. These E-Cigarettes/Vapes really started coming on the school scene about 3-5 years ago even though they have been around the U.S market since around 2008. People first started trying these E-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking to help them eventually quit. The problem is that many kids who never smoked cigarettes use these E-cigarettes/Vapes with nicotine added to the propylene glycol and/or glycerin fluid. As science has proven, nicotine is very addictive and we don’t fully know the long-term health issues associated with Vaping the “e-liquid” or e-juice with or without the nicotine. The CDC reports that use among youth in the U.S. for these products has increased significantly. With the recent surge in use among our youth, more studies are being conducted to shed some light on the effects of these products such as mouth sores, possible gum disease, irritated trachea and lungs, a persistent cough, bronchitis, and possible carcinogens (cancer causing agents) such as formaldehyde (For-MAAL-de-hide) and acetaldehyde (Ass-et-AAL-de-hide) are being released into their bodies from the E-fluid being heated by metal coils.

Dripping- What is it?

dripping

Some users want to get a greater high from the E-fluid  with nicotine in it so they remove the cover to the E-cigarette/Vape and drop the oil directly onto the heated coils which creates more smoke to inhale and a greater hit to that person’s throat. With the increase in heat, greater level of toxins can also be released into the user’s body.

E-Cigarettes/Vapes used for Illegal Substances

Here is a news report on how these devices can be altered to use various drugs and synthetic substances. The most common illicit drug used in them is a sticky marijuana oil called Dabs which usually has higher levels of THC (primary intoxicant in marijuana and hash). Dabs-are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using solvents  like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in this sticky oil also commonly referred to as wax or butter.

Dabbing

 

Other drugs being smoked from E-cigarettes/Vapes

As if it wasn’t bad enough that marijuana and nicotine are being smoked through these devices, several other substances are being added to the fluids such as GHB, heroin, Special K (ketamine), cocaine, magic mushrooms, spices, peyote, percocet, hash oil, amphetamines, ritalin, LSD,MDMA Xanax, Lorazepam, Here is a video from CNN on the rise of synthetic drugs like Flakka.

Why should schools change their handbooks to include E-Cigarettes/Vapes as drug paraphernalia instead of being listed as a Nicotine/Tobacco infraction? Because students can possibly use a variety of chemicals/drugs in these E-fluids, we as administrators don’t have the ability to tell exactly what is in them and don’t have the resources to test for all the possible drugs. If students are brazen enough to bring these into our schools, in my opinion, the Vapes/E-Cigarettes need to be treated as drug paraphernalia. Would it be Ok for a student to be smoking hash oil in class and our teachers not be able to tell what it is because the Vape-fluids are scented? These devices are also becoming smaller and harder to detect. An example are JUUL’s (which look like a thumb drive and can be charged in USB drives in school and some.

 

A few links on the Dangers of Vape Battery explosions

Vape explosion in backpack

Teen burned by Vape

Vape explodes in Canadian teen’s face

 

Other pics of various Vapes/E Cigarettes

vapes diffgernces

Personalized Learning – Bring Out The Genius In Kids

genius 3

So what is Personalized Learning and how does it differ from Individualized Learning and Differentiated Learning? http://education.ky.gov/school/innov/Documents/BB-KM-Personalizedlearningchart-2012.pdf Differentiated instruction is adapting to the various learning styles of students, but the learning goal usually remains the same. Individualized instruction is explicitly designed to accommodate individual learning needs, but students are dependent on teachers to support their learning. Personalized learning allows the student to choose what they want to learn and the method in which they want to learn it. There can be some 1:1 help by the instructor if the student needs it but it is not required. These students learn according to their preferred method which helps improve engagement. All three instructional strategies have their place.

It’s no secret that engaged students tend to do better in school and have less attendance and discipline issues. Students that are not engaged tend to loath school and are more likely to become a drop out. This can significantly reduce their chance for success. This is a segue from my last article on blended learning which tends to be more student centered and thus more engaging. Teachers need to use multiple modalities including using technologies, PBL, flipped classrooms, and collaborative problem solving to reach a wide audience of students.

Google was one of the pioneers in creative thinking by creating a Genius Hour for its employees. Google dedicated 20% of the work time so employees could brainstorm, be curious, and develop new ideas which helped improve Google’s status as a technological giant. So what is a Genius Hour? This is an hour set aside during a class once a week where students can work on anything they are interested in. A couple of questions teachers have regarding using this strategy are; what about all the content I have to squeeze in, and how do I get ready for those standardized tests if I allow students to choose what they want to learn? Genius Hour can be used many different ways by teachers and students. The big question is “how do you engage more learners and make their education more authentic?” By using a Genius Hour, students can become experts in anything they want or are interested in. It allows them to explore their passions and helps them realize that failure is a part of learning. This helps develop true growth. Several schools have already implemented a Genius Hour into their curriculum. http://www.greenwichschools.org/page.cfm?p=11586 By no means am I suggesting this is the only relevant activity, but it definitely helps engage students and gives them a deeper connection to their learning. I believe balance, creativity, fun and defined expectations helps students stay engaged. Here are some excellent links if you want to learn more about implementing a Genius Hour.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/09/living/genius-hour-education-schools/

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/genius-hour-essentials-personalized-education-nichole-carter

http://www.thenerdyteacher.com/2013/10/20time-makes-difference-edchat.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMFQUtHsWhc

http://cybraryman.com/geniushour.html

genius 2

Assistant Principal’s Corner #6

assistant_principal_greeting_card-r98501fdc0a1a4b609ed919dcfd28e15b_xvuat_8byvr_512

Using QR Codes to improve student learning and improve engagement.

By now, most people have heard of blended learning in education. If you are not quite sure what this means, here is a link that will help http://www.teachthought.com/blended-learning-2/the-definition-of-blended-learning/  As an assistant principal, we wear many hats. One of our responsibilities is to evaluate teachers but also provide them with ideas and feedback on how to improve student learning and engagemnet. I think most people would agree that engaged students tend to be more invested in their education and have less disciplinary and attendance related issues. By using more technology in the classrooms,  most students view the educational content as being more fun, interactive, and relevant to their everyday life. Show an interesting video from You Tube in class and watch how engaged and quiet the students are. By no means am I implying that technology is the answer to all educational growth but it certainly has its place and can pay huge dividends. Many European countries use a well balanced approach by using technology while still requiring students to use good old fashioned pen/pencil and paper to develop well rounded students. http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/finland-school-system-107137.html

So what about QR Codes? After attending an Edscape Conference in New Jersey, I learned how to use these in classes and took it one step further by researching it on You Tube and Twitter. This seemed so cool to me and putting my old teaching cap back on, I thought how can I introduce this to my staff to see if they might like to use it in their classes? After speaking with my administrative team, we thought it would be beneficial to try it in a faculty meeting. I designed a lesson that would infuse a flipped model (blended learning) by sending an email with all the directions, and a PowerPoint that included videos and web links to some excellent resources to make QRCodes, download a QR Reader, and links on how to creatively use them in classes. After presenting the lesson to my faculty, I received some positive feedback which made me decide to share out the entire presentation on my blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I truly hope it is helpful to teachers and administrators trying to use various technologies to improve student engagement. Please feel free to email me at tbresnahan@millburyschools.org or tweet me @tbresnahan1

Please see link below for adjusted presentation for this blog. I added the agenda and modified the trivia quiz to fit one powerpoint which condensed materials for this link. Please send me some feedback.

QR Codes

 

How Much Homework Is Too Much?

homework

Homework: What a giant issue that has been such a hot topic and such often a heated debate. I decided I wanted to try to tackle this MONSTAH, (Boston version). Why did I choose to write about a contentious issue? Because people need to look at the data before they pass judgment, and this data should be used to benefit student learning. I have enjoyed discussing this topic with several colleagues over my twenty something years in education and have changed my viewpoints as a result of looking at relevant data and the proverbial “Big Picture.”

So the most frequent questions I have heard are; Why is homework needed, does homework improve learning, what does quality/relevant homework look like, and how much homework is too much? The positive aspects of homework are it can help students learn responsibility, practice skills learned in class to help maximize learning, students learn to use more resources like reference materials, the internet, and libraries. Homework can also help students become more independent when they work on assignments on their own. Parents can become more involved in their child’s education by helping them with homework assignments and also seeing what they are learning in school. These are some of the positive aspects of homework.

There have been several studies on the efficacy of homework and most state that at younger ages, homework does not show a definite correlation between the homework and improved test scores or improved academic achievement. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/02/high-school-homework-are-_n_1071973.html Homework used in middle and high school has proven to have some positive impacts on learning as long as it was meaningful and relevant. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/research.htm What does relevant homework look like? From my experience and what I have read, it should be based on skill development and not just memorizing content. Marzano has some great examples of relevant work in his instructional strategies document  http://www.palmbeachschools.org/qa/documents/Handout5-MarzanoHighYieldStrategies.pdf The NEA (National Education Association) created some recommendations for assigning homework. It basically stated that a student should receive no more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level a night. An example is, an eighth grader would have no more than 80 minutes assigned in a night. This is tough to measure and police in a school, but it helps establish some kind of a norm for homework. This might also help educators understand how much homework is too much.

What is the negative impact of too much homework? I believe students need to go outside and play, be active, and socialize with their friends and family. Excessive homework can stunt a student’s growth in these areas. We want students to develop in many different areas not just in rote memorization. Also, is the homework equitable? What if several students don’t have the support at home to help with their homework while others do? Will this homework be graded? A family of well-educated parents certainly have an edge over those without, but all students are held accountable for the same graded homework. Something to think about! Should the majority of homework assignments even be graded or is it more about the effort in the process of completing it? If a student doesn’t understand the homework, won’t they just be performing the same imperfect tasks over and over which can be detrimental? Wouldn’t it be beneficial for the homework assignment to be based on areas that need work from class that a teacher noticed during some kind of formative assessment? What if the teacher also provided a link on their web page to help them work through the problems, material, or skills? Just a thought!

Does excessive homework prevent students from enjoying school because they feel overwhelmed, and is any of this adding to the excessive mental health issues we are seeing in our schools today? I would say it might play a role. Students definitely have a lot on their plate which is fine as long as we all know how to take some off when they are getting full. Did you know the US gives more homework than almost any other country in the world, but our test scores are not as high as say Japan and Finland? More doesn’t always mean better.

So, to wrap this up, I have learned that balance is the key to success in education, and we want to help students learn by using many educational sources and strategies. I feel homework has its place and can be beneficial if it improves skills that will translate to real-life learning.  I suggest using more technology and project based learning where students take the skills they learned into application. We want students to enjoy education and have fun in the process while also understanding that they must work hard and show responsibility. That balance word again!