Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Daughter

I started this blog, "Other People's Children" because my greatest fear is that I am better raising other people's kids than my own. It's a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but it's also a constant reminder that I need to have meaningful experiences with my kids on a regular basis. This year -- 2010 -- has been filled with just such adventures.

I will add photos later as time is limited, but did want to share about a couple of things we have done this summer.

Girl Fest: My daughter and I spent the day in Seattle on August 28, 2010, with hundreds of vendors and presenters, music, fire department and police officials... you get the idea. My daughter was chosen to go on stage to play a game with Radio Disney officials, we learned how to make our own safe face paint for Halloween, met the Sea Gals and Miss Seafair, listened to some amazing local and national musicians, and of course SHOPPING! We both came home with lots of fun treasures.

Camping: My kids and I spent a week at the Sequim/Port Angeles KOA. We had a great time. Molly attended the Girl Scout Day Camp in Port Angeles and Jack and I hung out and relaxed. We studied rocks, played mini golf, rode bikes, and hiked a little. One day we took a long walk on the beach at Dungeness Spit looking for wildlife in support of his Tracking Merit Badge. I think that would make an excellent digital story....

Vacation: The three of us also went to Nice, California for a week. We recently joined World Mark and this was our first vacation with that organization. We met wonderful people while hanging at the pool -- Molly has a couple of pen pals now, and we met a great family from the Tacoma area. Turns out we have a mutual friend, too :)

I hope my kids will have good memories of our time this summer. Hard to believe it's almost over -- back to school in about a week!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Math in K-12 Schools

Seems everyone these days is talking about math, and for good reason. Our students are performing well below standard as the norm.

"Teach to the test" I hear quite a bit. Causes shivers to run up and down the spines of most teachers. I wonder, though, if we've ever stopped to think about that phrase.

Why SHOULDN'T we teach to the test? Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about exclusively teaching to a test, but if we believe that the test is based on the standards, and the standards guide our curriculum planning, and our curriculum planning forms our instruction, and student performance on formative AND summative assessment also guides our instruction... I ask again--albeit in a different way--why shouldn't the test also guide our curriculum planning and instruction?

I have often shared with people that I do not believe that the textbook used makes a difference in the achievement of kids in mathematics. I believe that students can experience success with any tool. My perspective on that is changing a bit. We embarked on the "integrated math" plan about 6 years ago with the belief that it would be easier to supplement skill work into a problem solving program then the other way around. This has turned out not to be true -- since our teachers are expected to teach 5 of 6 periods a day, when would they have the time to develop a comprehensive supplemental instructional program???

At a recent board meeting, the superintendent mentioned we may need to fast track a new textbook adoption for high school math.... I quickly asked, "Can we have that done before September 7th?" The board meeting was August 25th. But then I started thinking... why do we need expensive textbooks? Is anyone out there teaching high school math, particularly Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II, without textbooks?

I want to be careful, though, that we don't then default to becoming "Ditto" from the movie "Teachers", or mistakenly think we can plug kids into computers without the benefit of any direct instruction or support from a teacher with whom they have a solid relationship -- I think we need an exciting, interactive, paperless, textbook-less (is that a word??) alternative.

A final note on math: I truly believe it's a function of time. Drive by any school in the summer, and what does the readerboard say? "Have fun, be safe, and READ!" Very good advice... but why are we not encouraging kids to work on math? Why, in teacher prep classes, do we always take "Reading in the Content Areas" but no "Teaching and Learning Math in the Content Areas"?

Enough of my soapbox.....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gearing Up for School

I wonder if I will ever feel completely ready for a new school year. It seems that each year, I know more about how to plan for the year, and yet because of that, there is always more to do. I'm beyond excited about the upcoming school year, and yet I feel totally buried (literally) sitting here at my desk.

I also got to thinking that non-principals might not think about the same things that I do this time of year. So, here's a little humor (at least attempted): the Top 10 things on my mind with 7 work days before the first day of school:

10: Technology: how do we get enough access for teachers and students to use it to its full potential?

9: And speaking of technology, I want to explore more Digital Story Telling -- my own, the staff, the students... What about parents?

8: Graduation requirements: The State of Washington truly believes in keeping us on our toes -- it seems like the requirements are different for every class -- a major challenge in tracking, communicating....

7: Scheduling: Math MSP scores were just released this week. I've been waiting for these for weeks, and now I need to get to the business of organizing information and placing students

6: New Staff Orientation: and I mean this broadly! How do we welcome new staff to our building, bring them on board with previous programs, and help them start to build positive relationships with staff, students, community....

5: Professional Development: So much to do, so little time: the aforementioned Digital Story Telling, Navigation 101, Success at the Core, Strength Finder 2.0.... I could go on, but I won't :)

4: Hiring! Yikes -- still have one open position. Really hoping to have that filled (interviewed today --looks promising). So important to put in time up front to hire the best staff.

3: Student Leadership: where to put all our advisories, where the ASB officers should be housed, how to foster more student voice in our schools.....

2: Encouraging a stronger collaborative energy, with a committed focus on student learning in everything we do.

1: And the number one thing on my mind this time of year.... OUR STUDENTS! In particular, one new 6th grader who gets to have his mom as his principal. Love you Jack!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My first digital story

Just finished a two-day workshop with Dr. Helen Barrett on Digital Storytelling. What an amazing experience! Learned all kinds of technical skills, how to record and upload audio, how to blend voice over and music tracks, and most importantly, how to use Microsoft Windows Movie Maker.

So here it is -- my first attempt -- available for viewing at the following link:

Looking forward to your feedback