Posted by principalofchange on June 5, 2010
My new blog starts today – principalwells.wordpress.com
So why a new blog? I have been blogging for over a year about education at “Principal of Change” and have made a lot of great connections in that time. But I kept thinking about the title of my blog, “principal of change.” I am very interested in the process of changing schools. But honestly, I thought the play on words (principal/principle) was fun, and change is in – right?
The more I thought about it, I became less comfortable with the name. School change is too important, and too complicated, to be the catchy title of my blog. I wrestle the the concept of change – do I leave things alone even though old and dependable is not always the best for kids, or do I change everything and freak people out? Should I tell my teachers not to worry or should I take them a bit out of their comfort zone? Well, I’m happy with the new blog. While I’m not about change for change sake, I am always….Principalwells.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »
Posted by principalofchange on April 7, 2010
Vermont has five seasons – Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring….and Mud Season. While some schools have to close for heavy snow, we sometimes have to close because the dirt roads get too muddy in the spring for busses to drive on them. We have had a really mild mud season this year. This is big news in Vermont as one of my school’s busses and one of my students made it on the 6 o’clock news!
Click on image to watch our mud season news story!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: bus, mud season, Vermont, Westford | Leave a Comment »
Posted by principalofchange on April 3, 2010
It happens so many times. A group of people work with a vision and find a new way to make their work rewarding and very productive yet the idea dies on the vine. How many school reforms start with great promise only to meet the same fate. I heard a great podcast about this very phenomenon but it is about manufacturing cars. Listen to a recent episode of This American Life to learn how General Motors teamed up with Toyota to build the most reliable cars in company history and hear how the fantastic ideas at the NUMI plant failed to spread to the rest of the company until it was too late. Sounds a lot like some schools if you ask me. Now I know people always say that teaching children is nothing like making things in a factory….and I think that is really true if you only think of factories in old terms. When old style GM teamed up with Toyota in the 1980′s, the workers at the NUMI plant had to totally re-think their jobs. They had to learn what it meant to be on a team – to solve problems together, to help each other, to put quality first. Hum….working as a team, helping each other, putting children first…I can see many connections. How did the NUMI plant work? Well, their task was urgent – the old plant made terrible cars and was shut down. They received lots of help, even traveling to Japan to learn new ways to do their old job. But most importantly, they learned to work as a team and constantly helped each other to make better cars. The sad part is that the very successful ideas learned at NUMI did not spread to the rest of GM. A combination of resistance to change, mistrust between management and labor, and a lack of urgency lead to the NUMI plant becoming a pocket of change that ultimately failed. There certainly are lessons for schools to learn here!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: education, failure, General Motors, NUMI, Toyota, transformation | Leave a Comment »
Posted by principalofchange on March 31, 2010
My New nook by AMDavidson on Flickr
I hadn’t been in our local Barnes and Noble lately so what I saw on my last visit really surprised me. I had just run in to buy a copy of “Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads” (More about that in a later post!) but I couldn’t find the book. If I wanted a Nook, Barnes and Noble’s electronic book reader, I would have easily found one at the giant display at the front of the store. I wanted a real copy of this book so I head up stairs where I thought the Sociology or Psychology section might be. I didn’t find either section but did find an enlarged selection of home study books for school aged children – a whole bunch of workbooks! The changing information landscape hit me in the face, while you can take dozens of e-books with you wherever you go, there are fewer traditional book choices in the book store. What seems to have taken the place of more literature are tools for rote study and memorization. The world of knowledge is simultaniously expanding and contracting. I love the expanded opportunities but worry about the workbook creep – why do people think we need that kind of learning?
Posted in Disruptive Innovation | Tagged: book, e-reader, education, learning, memorization | Leave a Comment »
Posted by principalofchange on March 25, 2010
I’m all set for another seven years – at least as far as my educator’s license goes. I dug out my old set of licensing goals in order to write some new ones. When I looked back at my goals from seven years ago it brought me back to my third year as a principal- still a little wet behind the ears. I wrote four goals (I must have felt ambitious) on the themes of technology, teacher evaluation, planning, and community involvement. So did I learn about all of those things in seven years….yes and a whole lot more. But seven years is a long time and I wondered how I could pick goals (only three this time) that would guide my learning that far into the future. I even tried crowdsourcing by putting out a Twitter call for goal suggestions. @mclewis suggested that I encourage teachers to use technology without making them feel overwhelmed. @caroy suggested that I look into innovative scheduling for 21st century school design. I decided to write goals on good pedagogy – as I truly believe that includes technology integration (the kind that does not overwhelm teachers) and so many other good practices I want to learn more about, communication as that ever evolving skill is critical for school leadership, and planning as I look to do more for my school with less money every year (like having a schedule that maximizes my 21st Century resources). Now the journey starts – seven more years of school leadership and seven more years of learning.
Posted in Goals | Tagged: Goals, leadership, learning | Leave a Comment »
Posted by principalofchange on February 25, 2010
I plan to write much more on this later….but as I am spending my school vacation thinking of my professional licensure goals for the next 7 years and I want to do a little bit of crowdsourcing. As a school principal, or somebody who works for a school principal- what do you suggest I learn for the next seven years (that’s how long my new license will last)? Of course, my goals should fit within the Interstate School Licensure Standards for School Leaders (http://www.ccsso.org/content/pdfs/isllcstd.pdf ). To give you a few more hints: my interests include student centered learning, 21st century skills, and technology integration.
Click here to submit your ideas!
Thanks for your help!
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Posted by principalofchange on February 7, 2010
Principals like feedback, right? Well, we need feedback but it can be difficult to deal with at times. I’ve been thinking a lot about a new web 2.0 type of feedback has affected my school. Our little town in northern Vermont has a web forum called the “Front Porch Forum” and folks have been using it to discuss our upcoming school budget. There have been a wide range of opinions voiced on this forum. It has seemed a bit divisive to me with a range of opinions from ”Teachers make too much money, they should take a pay cut” to “Our teachers work hard and deserve their pay.” So why does this seem different to me? People have always held these kinds of opinions. We used to have an annual meeting where people would openly discuss the budget before casting their vote. In my years as a Vermont principal, I have heard many similar comments go back and forth at the annual meeting, but comments stopped when the meeting broke for lunch. Now the comments go on for days in an open forum. And the comments seem a bit sharper – perhaps because you are not looking at your neighbors when you are typing on your keyboard. My superintendent and I have been talking about the urge to respond to these comments. Certainly, some erroneous information needed to be corrected, but many of the comments took care of themselves. When one person insinuated that we spent too much money on busing high school students, another person chimed in to say that she has to drive her child to high school every day because there is no bus. The conversations have died down now and I kind of miss them. We vote on our school budget in a few weeks and I want to know what people are thinking. Reading the forum was like lurking and listening to conversations at the gas pump or the parking lot after a ball game. While I didn’t like everything I heard, it was better to know what people were thinking and saying.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: education, forum, principal, Vermont, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »
Posted by principalofchange on January 21, 2010
OK, I’ll admit that I am getting a bit ahead of myself here. My school will soon be considering standards based report cards (SBRC) and I know this will be a long journey. Sure, I’ve seen SBRCs and know how they work. We even used SBRCs at my last school. But I know enough that switching over to a new way of reporting out student progress depends on the understanding and commitment of teachers, students, and parents. Almost everyone reading this blog has experienced traditional report cards marked with A, B, C, D, and the ever popular F. We know this system so well that we often take a SBRC and translate it into letter grades – “Meeting the standard must be an A, right?” So, I want to make sure my school community is ready for this change. My teachers will need to be clear about how they evaluate student progress. Parents will need to think in terms of continual assessment and growth. But in at least one informal measure, my students seem to be the most ready. I conducted an informal survey through my school website to gage thoughts and opinions about our grading practices and our students felt most strongly that how one’s learning has grown is the most important thing to recognize. I was pleasantly surprised. I had totally underestimated how much students value their own growth as learners. So, are we ready to change our report cards? I don’t think we’re there yet, but our students are leading the way!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: assessment, education, grades, standards based report cards | 1 Comment »
Posted by principalofchange on November 14, 2009
I’ve been thinking a lot about grades, report cards, and “honor role” lately. Our report cards came out today and that makes me think of our upcoming transition to standards based reporting. Teachers of younger students in my K-8 school use standards based report cards while teachers of older students use traditional grades. I know we will soon be facing a transition to standards based report cards for all of our students and I wonder how we will make this change. The move to standards based report cards will come up against our long tradition of having an honor role. How does a child get high honors if many of his or her classmates can be “secure” in their learning? Frankly, I am looking forward to this discussion about honor role. Especially today as I watched a middle school student lead to the school bus by his friend while he was crying. Why was he crying? He didn’t make high honors. Is the pressure to get that honor role ribbon worth sending some students home crying?
For what it’s worth, here is what I put in my school newsletter today:
As our first marking period comes to a close and we look forward to parent conferences, it causes me to think about the grades we give our students. First and foremost, I want our students to be recognized for what they have learned over the past few months. But that brings us a really good question, what have they learned? If a child in first grade can read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone while another first grader is reading Henry and Mudge, should they both be graded as “secure” in their learning? It depends on what they are actually learning. Our teachers would say that both of these children must grow as readers and that is what we would speak to on a child’s report card. Since being “secure” in one’s learning can mean different things, so does being “developing” in one’s learning. I was speaking with a parent in another town who was very disappointed that her daughter’s report card stated that she was “developing” in some subjects. If we, as adults, looked at our own learning, let’s say with something like playing guitar, could we get to the point where we are so secure that we have nothing else to learn? I don’t think so. So I encourage parents to look at the report cards that will come home next week through the lens of what their child has learned. Our upcoming parent conferences are an excellent time to ask your child’s teacher about the growth that he or she has made.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: David Wells, education, grades, honor role, standards | 5 Comments »