Thursday, March 31, 2011


The other day my oldest daughter came to visit me at work. I just happened to have a couple of students in my office and I was explaining to them that telling the truth would be to their advantage when it came to resolving the issue we were dealing with.

Once the students were gone Missy came in and as we talked she expressed to me that she over heard my conversation (my office door was opened) and was under her breath encouraging the students to do what I was asking and tell the truth. She said; “You were using your DADDY VOICE.”

The “DADDY VOICE” for most people is that stern commanding voice your father used when the consequences of your actions were more that likely going to result in some form of punishment. As a youth, when my Daddy used this tone the events that followed were not pleasant. Let me tell you I deserved the DADDY VOICE every time it was used (And the truth is told there were times that I got away with things when the DADDY VOICE should have been used). But as I look back I can also see times when the voice brought me comfort when Daddy was there voicing support to defend my actions at times. I want to say upfront that I love my Daddy and that in my mind there is not a man on this earth that I want to more like than him. He has supported me in the good times and bad and as our relationship has grown we are now two men sharing our views and love for each other.

I wanted to see what others thought about the DADDY VOICE so I posted the question to my Facebook account, and the answers varied. The responses from the younger crowd were those of trepidation to what followed the voice and there was still a little fearful respect for their fathers, while my generation was one of humor as well as support for the discipline their fathers gave them. There were those responses that feared the MOMMA VOICE more than that of Daddy. The ones that touched my heart were the ones whose fathers were no longer with us and the longing to hear that voice of support in their lives even if was that voice of the disciplinarian.

Through all the responses there was an underlying yearning to have someone hold them accountable for their actions. That seems to go against what the media and our society says. They always want to blame someone else for their woes and don’t like it when we have to be the one to stand up and take responsibility for the outcome of our actions. Wouldn’t be something to see our government federal and state is able to sit down and work together and accept that some of the actions of both sides are good and some have caused us problems.

Don’t think we in education are not in the same quagmire. The higher elementary teachers blame the lower elementary teachers for providing a sound foundation that they can build on. The parents scream No Child Left Behind is not being followed when their child is struggling.

NCLB was designed to meet the student at their level in every grade. That means that if Charlie is doing well in all subjects but Math, then we need to work on that to help him move through our educational system in a timely manner. We as educators and parents need to band together and use our DADDY VOICE to let students know they will be accountable to learn and that we will be accountable for being very clear in what it is that they need to learn and when they struggle we will be there to give them extra time and support to master a skill In order for us to create these type of environments, schools need to provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate and come up with research-based ideas that can provide the support our students need. More to come on this topic

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where Is Our Teacher?

Where Is Our Teacher?

Where is our teacher? This is a question students and parents ask whenever the classroom teacher is out. Student absenteeism is something that every school battles. Another attendance issue that schools face is that of teacher absenteeism. In a recent administrator’s meeting teacher attendance was brought up and it was reported that last year if we just took the teachers who missed 10 or more days (these were a combination of sick, personal, or professional leave) equaled to 39 years of teaching lost in a single year. The financial burden teacher absenteeism has on a district a major problem, but that does not compare to the other issues that are raised.

Like it or not teachers serve as role models and influence students’ perceptions about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Research shows that teacher absenteeism negatively affects student performance. It also affects the attendance of the students. Chronic teacher absenteeism sends an underlying message that school attendance is not important. With the push to reform education and increase teacher quality, we must look at finding ways to improve teacher attendance.

What To Do?

There is a big push for districts to review their teacher attendance policies and provide principals more autonomy when it comes to dismissing teachers with chronic attendance issues. I believe that schools and districts address two issues: 1)Work to make educators (teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators) aware of the importance of work attendance and its effect on student performance and 2) Encourage district policymakers to better implement and supplement existing policies through different strategy options. Focus on incentive-based systems rather than a punitive approach.

Just like attendance incentives schools give students who regularly are at school, why not provide teachers with incentives. I suggest those teachers who have perfect attendance receive a financial incentive from the district. Other ideas could be that teachers would be able to sell unused days back to the district. There may be those who say that this would push a district’s already tight budget further out. The example I have is that in our district every day a teacher is out costs us over $200.00 (salary , benefits and retirement). If we took some of that money and placed it in a fund that could be distributed to those who have a good attendance record. This would not alleviate teacher absenteeism, but it would decrease it. It would also save the district money.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Keeping Secrets

I had to apologize to my staff today. I had been keeping secrets from them. To make the matter worse, most everyone knew the secrets already. You see, one of our secretaries had come to me before Thanksgiving, expressing interest in a position at the high school. She asked me to call the principal at the high school and put a good word in for her which I did. She also expressed that according to the counseling office where the position was at that she was a shoe in. I told her to keep it under the radar until we knew something official.

Being the type to try to stay ahead of the game, I called one of your paraprofessionals in to see if they would be interested if the transfer went through to take the office position. Again I ask that our conversation be confidential, and before the day was out the secrets were out. I am telling you the NFL and College football rumors about what coach is being fired or hired have nothing on the rumor mill of a school.

It was not until the day we got out for the Christmas break did I get word from personnel that the transfers looked like a good possibility and not until today that they were made official. Throughout this whole process I kept tight lipped about issues, because best laid plans can become derailed.

I feel one of the biggest secrets we have in education is that we have really good teachers out there giving it their best. But the issues that make the evening news, is how the “American Education System” is failing our children. Documentaries like “The Cartel” and “Waiting for Superman” paint a dreadful picture of public education and how parents and children are suffering. Does public education have room for improvement? Yes. Are there those in the teaching profession that need to go? Yes. Do we need to provide better educational opportunities for our children? Yes.

With that said, I see good teaching going on everyday. Teachers, who put math lessons into real-life situations by having students learn how to cut a chicken to get the most pieces for a lunch, then cook the chicken and allow the students to eat the completed product. I see teachers creating environments where the students talk among themselves about a particular text they are reading. Teachers taking students on a field trip to the municipal building to allow them to see how the government they study is put into action. Teachers are doing the best they can.

There will always be room for improvement in our public schools and it is my job as the principal to provide them with opportunities to improve their skills, through research of best practices and to instill in them the desire to continue learning. I need to be an example to my teachers as a life-long learning by trying new things. Let me know what you thoughts are.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Its All a Matter of Perspective

Well it is official; school is back in session after the Christmas Break. Yesterday, the faculty and staff returned for a workday and today the students returned. The school has been bustling with activity from new families coming to school registering their children to the Central Office beginning their dissemination of guidelines and mandates from the state.

One of the best parts of my day is when I am out of the office and visiting classes or out on the playground during recess. Today when I was making my rounds during afternoon recess one of our second girls came up to me and said, “You look handsome today.” Now for a bald, fifty year old man with a paunch in the middle that really made my day. The interesting thing was watching the reaction of the students around this little girl. The looks they gave her were like, are you crazy? It was a matter of perspective that this child for some reason that even baffles me would give a complement such as this.

Wouldn’t life be so much more enjoyable if we took the time to have a different perspective on the situations we face? To find something good in each circumstance that we find ourselves in. Yesterday, I spent the day just going around asking my staff how their holiday break was. It was an enjoyable day for me since I took the time to step back and forget about the upcoming state tests, the reports the Central Office needs, or the filling of vacant positions and just talk to my staff. To get a different perspective of how I view them.

The things they shared with me were truly a gift. I had a teacher who got engaged, another who purchased a fifth wheel trailer and who shared information about the upcoming trip to Colorado this summer, still another shared they got a new Boston terrier puppy, while other shared the joy of spending time with loved ones. I feel that by asking them to share, they saw me in a different perspective as not only their boss, but that I wanted to truly get to know them in a more personal sense and this creates a true sense of belonging, and isn’t that what we all want.

To me, Country music really hits home when it comes to life. One of George Strait’s most recent releases entitled “The Breath You Take” makes us think about how we view life events. The lyrics of the chorus really talk to me about perspective. They go like this:

“Life’s not the breath you take.

Breathing, in and out,

that gets you through the day,

ain’t what its all about.

You just might miss the point,

trying to win the race.

Life’s not the breath you take,

but the moments that take your breath away.”