Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reflections - Post #1

Last year on Super Bowl Sunday I decided that the following day was going to be a new start for me. I was
mainly referring to my health, weight and other related things. However, in making that decision last February, I have found that the past year has provided me with an amazing "refreshed" outlook on life, work, and family.

I wrote a post on December 2nd that gives some detail about my decision to make some changes in my health entitled, HATS,Goals, and Me. This post is a reflection upon the ten months or so leading up to running a 5k on Thanksgiving morning, the satisfaction of reaching that goal, and how it fit in with our school theme this year. The process of the last year has truly made me assess my goals and priorities throughout all aspects of my life.
By Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon  via Wikimedia Commons

I had to sit down and take a look at all of the things that are on my plate and decide what things are vital to me and what things need to fall by the wayside or need to be postponed.  As I reflected upon this and made a list (I love lists, especially digital lists!); here is what I came up with:

Vital (these are not in order after the first two)
Personal Learning and Growth
Inner Peace/Faith
New Experiences

Postponed/Wayside (these are not in order at all)
Doctoral Work
Some Home Improvements
Toxic People
Sweating the Small Stuff
Stuff, in general - clutter

Please note that these are fairly broad categories and each has more specific subtopics on my personal list. This post is an introduction to a series of posts I am going to write about the items on the lists above. As I have always said, this blog is a place for me to learn with others by reflecting upon my life and work. So, this may get personal, but I hope that working through these topics here will provide greater clarity for me in the year ahead and maybe ignite a spark for someone else to look at things differently or make a change. As I work through these posts over the coming weeks/months I reserve the right to add to or modify the list as any evolving, reflective thinker might.

On some level this post and those that follow are inspired by @DrSpikeCook. This year he committed to writing a post a day for 365 days. I am not ready for that challenge (maybe next year); however, I wanted to commit to at least a series of posts that would provide direction and focus this year. This is my start. I am sure I will have posts about other things in between, but look for the title, "Reflections" and the post number for the ones in this series.

Please join me and comment along the way. I would greatly appreciate it.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Unannounced Observations

A strange phenomenon is occurring in my school at the moment surrounding unannounced observations. This year, the NJDOE has instituted a new teacher evaluation system for all teachers. One component requires at least one unannounced observation of the three required for tenured staff. This is a departure from past practice in our district. We have generally scheduled our visits. There was never a real sense of urgency to do unannounced observations because administrators work to be in classrooms for walkthroughs anyway, so "unannounced" informal observations were happening fairly regularly.

Our first round of observations completed before the New Year were all announced, but our second round of tenured observations have all been unannounced. This has created a different vibe in the building than I have been used to for the last 11 years. I remember back when I started teaching 20 years ago in a different district where all observations were unannounced; the principal would walk out of his office with his leather portfolio and news would spread like wildfire through the building that he was on the move. It was crazy because usually when he came to your room, you were already teaching and never got the message in time anyway, so you just did your thing and got observed.

Now, I am the principal and over the past several weeks every time I leave my office, I notice people looking to see if I have my iPad in my hands. It has actually become somewhat of a joke where I either hold up my hands to show that I am not "carrying" or I politely remind the teacher looking at my hands that, "my eyes are up here:-)"

Here is the crazy part, I am seeing some great lessons!! I am beginning to think that when teachers have advanced notice of observations they tend to over-think it. I have a wonderful staff who are dedicated to student learning and success every day. Conducting unannounced formal observations has only served to reinforce my belief that our staff "gets it" and that our children are being served well through their efforts. Can all of us improve in some areas? Yes, and that goes for me, the teachers, and anyone reading this post; however, I think that the shift to including an unannounced component to our observation system has been a positive one. I realize this may not be a revelation for those who have always conducted unannounced observations, but it was a wonderful reminder for me!

What do you think? Are your observations announced or unannounced? Which do you prefer? Why?

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