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.

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 #5

bus

Why School Attendance is Important? The Big Picture!

After writing on a highly debatable topic like homework, I said to myself, what other sticky topic could I stir the pot with? Ah! Attendance popped into my head. As an assistant principal, we spend much of our time trying to track, chase down, and improve student attendance. This can be daunting and sometimes it feels like a Sisyphean task.   http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/sisyphus.html

So why worry so much if students are not punctual or miss several days of school? Can’t they still get a passing grade and that highly coveted high school diploma? After all, isn’t it just the grade and that piece of paper with the school seal that society says is the most important thing to the students? What is the correlation between having good attendance and academic success? Does being punctual demonstrate respect for others and a sense of commitment and responsibility?

So what does some of the data say? It is evident that students missing ten percent of school in any given school year (chronic absenteeism) reduces even the best teachers ability to provide quality instruction, and those students will be much more likely to either stay back in school or even drop out. One of the greatest factors in improving the quality of life for low-income or at risk students is their education, but having poor attendance greatly decreases their chances for success. Students from all socio-economic groups generally score lower on standardized tests when they missed too much school and are less prepared for college and careers. Many businesses complain that high school and college graduates are chronically late to work and are missing a strong work ethic. http://drjameswellborn.com/preparing-teens-for-the-21st-century-work-place-work-ethic/

Many school systems have vertically aligned attendance policies within their district but don’t uniformly follow the established policies. This is often due to parental push-back, a lack of support by administration, and often changing state guidelines. Raising children is not an easy task at any age, and so many more parents are working  to pay their bills, save for college, and their retirement. This can be challenging in a very difficult economy but they still need to have consistent expectations to ensure their child’s academic success. When schools call home and inquire why a student went on vacation in October versus the summer time, it can cause tension between the parents and the school. Parents may have only been able to schedule it then, or the prices were cheaper. We all know hotels and airlines  jack up the costs during school vacation time. School Administrators do understand this, but we have to hold the students accountable for their education. This is where dialogue between the two parties is critical.

Students also do become physically and mentally ill, and schools are required to call home and check on those types of absences as well. How many times can an adult miss work for illnesses before they get fired? We need to teach students how to deal with some of their issues to build these skills for later in life. If it’s serious, document the days missed with medical notes, and we will work together to get the student caught up. Again, it needs to be within reason. How many notes could you give your boss or college professor?

So what do we do to improve student attendance? From my experience, it takes a collaborative effort from all parties to do this. No one person can have a significant impact. It starts with communication and expectations that need to be followed through with and consistent consequences if these are not met. I believe you must always use rewards and consequences for positive and negative behaviors. An example of this is excellent attendance rewards like no homework passes, free school lunch passes, lunch with the principal, school-wide attendance celebrations, attendance awards, etc. The consequences should be progressive, fair, and consistent. Verbal warnings, detentions, Saturday School, loss of privileges, etc.

The schools and parents need to be on the same page with these expectations to have optimal success. Habits and expectations all start at younger ages, so it is critical that elementary and middle schools follow strict attendance procedures to prevent a snowball effect in high school. School administrators know there will be some push back but need to stand firm because it is only going to be in the best interest of the students. If we buckle every time someone doesn’t agree with the policies or procedures, it will most definitely end up hurting the students in the long run when they are lacking these skills later in life. Doing the right thing can often be the hardest thing to do and also follow through with.

For more information on attendance, please visit this awesome website ATTENDANCE WORKS  http://www.attendanceworks.org/