Saturday, April 27, 2013

Summer Reflection and Planning

As the weather is getting warmer and the to do list is growing longer, summer is right around the corner. For many teachers, summer is a hard-earned reprieve from the day-to-day routine of the school year. Some use the time to prepare for the upcoming school year, while others spend the time working supplementary jobs or volunteering.
Summer fun at the beach

I asked my students what they thought teachers do during the summer. They said that teachers
·      Sleep a lot.
·      Go on vacation.
·      Spend time with their family.
·      Have a big party and then, close the school.
·      Make people be quiet.
·      Learn about next year’s students.
·      Get ready for the next school year.

While I’m sure that teachers do most of those things, one activity the students failed to mention was reflecting on the past year’s successes and failures. When I look back over the past year, I ask myself the following questions based on a list posted on Dr. Troy Roddy’s educational leadership blog, The Art of Education.
  1. What were my goals for this year? Did I accomplish my goals? If so, how do I know? If not, why?
  2. What were my best lessons this year? How do I know?
  3. What were the lessons that were the biggest disappointments? Why?
  4. Is my classroom set up to facilitate the type of class I want to teach?
  5. What feedback did I collect from students about their learning experience?
  6. Did I grow as a professional this year?  If so, in what areas?  If not, why?
  7. If I could do one thing over again, what would it be and why?
The answers to these questions naturally lead to thoughts on how I can improve my performance and have a more significant impact on student learning in the upcoming school year. I ask myself the following questions when developing my goals and plan for accomplishing those goals:
  1. How will I turn this year’s reflections into action? How can I repeat my successes and transform disappointments into celebrations?
  2. How will I encourage collaborative problem solving?
  3. How will I develop leadership skills in students?
  4. How will I further incorporate technology to impact student learning?
  5. How will I become a better leader in my school and professional organizations?
  6. What areas do I need to focus on for professional development? What opportunities are available in those areas?
  7. What resources or support do I need to accomplish my goals?
John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” Don’t let the summer pass by without reflecting on how you can improve your teaching skills and have a more profound impact on student learning.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Why Do You Want to Become a School Leader?

One of the most common questions during assistant principal interviews is "why do you want to become a school leader?" I've spent a lot of time pondering my answer and have found it difficult to put into words why I feel drawn to school leadership.

So, I thought about why I decided to become a teacher in the first place. The following is an excerpt from an essay about the factors that influenced me to become a teacher:
Gramps playing my wedding waltz

As I spun around the dance floor with my new husband, I glanced around the room through the crowd of family, friends, mentors, and teachers. My eyes and ears fixated on the soundtrack performed by Dad and Gramps. As the waltz played, I realized that these two men, who surrounded me with a lifetime of love and support, led me to discover my passion of music and my life’s purpose of teaching it to others. They shaped me into who I am and created in me a passion to lead others to the joy of music.  
Gramps was a thoughtful person, who was always willing to give. He served our country during World War II and spent his career with U.S. Steel. However, his lifelong passion was music. He could sing, play any instrument, and call square dances. Gramps made music an essential part of family life and encouraged Dad to experiment with all types of instruments. The banjo is what stuck. After learning a new technique in his lesson, my dad would run home, teach Gramps, and they would play into the night. As my own musical passion flourished, Gramps attended my performances, from school holiday programs to halftime shows in the sweltering heat. Gramps was always encouraging me to not only pursue my passion, but to use my talents to lead others. When he was no longer able to play, Gramps still surrounded himself with music by listening to and discussing music. Even in death, his passion for music is a model of leadership. Interlaced in his papers regarding funeral arrangements were two aged newspaper clippings discussing the honor of having “Taps” sounded at the funerals of veterans. Gramps was granted his final musical aspiration when one of my father’s longtime friends played “Taps” at his burial. 
Dad's induction into the
Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame
Gramps’s musical passion continues to thrive through my father’s talent, skill, and leadership in the bluegrass community. Dad was recently inducted into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame for his guidance in instilling musical passion in others. His ownership of a local music store, musical prowess in performances, and teaching of banjo and guitar has inspired thousands to develop a love of bluegrass music. 
I'm "helping" Dad practice
My family’s engagement in my education is the main factor that influenced me to become a teacher. Through Dad and Gramps, I discovered a passion for music and I am honored to share this legacy with my students. The joy I experienced in my childhood continues to shape my teaching. Students sing, play instruments, move, improvise songs, create compositions using technology, and lead others to learn about music. They utilize music as a tool to learn about other subject areas and unlock their hidden talents. It is my goal to continually show my unwavering passion for music and be a “Gramps” to my students by introducing them to the incredible world of music, the thrill of learning, and their lifelong purpose.

Once I revisited my reasoning for becoming a teacher, I realized that I feel drawn to school leadership for the same purpose. I aspire to follow in Gramps's footsteps by leading others to find their passion. That could be inspiring students to realize their purpose and become leaders in their area of talent. Or, I could assist a teacher in utilizing data to impact student achievement. As a school leader, I have the opportunity to impact school culture at a more profound level than I could as a teacher.

What inspired you to pursue school leadership?