Monday, September 30, 2013

The Circus Is In Town

This past Friday night I went with my family to a small traveling 1 ring circus.  As I watched my children enjoy the show I couldn't help but notice how the circus ran like a well oiled machine.  We talk often about "All hands on deck" but the circus was a perfect example of that philosophy.  It was first apparent after the tiger show when I saw how quickly and smoothly they were able to take the cage down and set up for the next attraction.  Not one person said a word and within 2 minutes everyone had completed their job and they were on to the next act.  Then the acrobats come out and as they twirled and spun through the air and my children gazed in amazement I realized the performer spinning above us was the same woman who I bought my ticket from not an hour earlier.  And so it continued; during intermission the worker taking and selling pictures of my son and I riding an elephant was the performer who stacked and climbed chairs earlier in the night, the flame breathing performer also dressed the lamas and dogs during their act which immediately followed his own act, and the acrobat who was swinging and spinning on his head was working at the pony rides after the show.  The whole night was a perfect example of teamwork, a united vision, everyone having a role, and trusting each other to complete their roles.  I couldn't help but make a connection to school and how we could learn so much from the circus.  There wasn't one job that went undone and everyone worked for the cause of putting on the best show possible for the audience.  I don't know if the show was perfect or the performers interactions backstage but they tried to make sure it was an amazing show.  They were successful!  My children sat for 2 and a half hours in pure amazement and my wife and I got to enjoy the show and even more importantly we were able to watch our children enjoy the show.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Always Learning

   I am entering into my first adventure into blogging, so bare with me as I figure it out.  But as I am  trying to figure out where to list my name, the blog name, the html, and everything else that goes into posting my thoughts online; I can't help but see the connection to my first couple years as an administrator.  I am pretty computer savvy, yet as you know every time you use a new system or program there is a learning curve.  When I think of my development as an Assistant Principal I realize that as I went through my classes I learned the "law", "finances", and "methodology" to being and administrator, yet when I walked in the door of the school there was so much I needed to learn still.  Great that I know the "law" but did I know the districts teacher's contract?  I'm glad I understood how schools receive money from taxes but what account do I take the money out of for soccer socks?  Yeah we envisioned our school climate we wanted to create but how do I get these 100 professionals to follow me and believe in my vision when I might be asking more of them that ever before?
     Starting my 3rd year as Assistant Principal I know more than I did 3 years ago and everyday I realize I still have a lot to learn.  But I am OK with that because there are a few things I am sure of:
1.  I don't know everything but I am able to learn what I don't know.
2.  As long as I am consistent with my vision and my actions are consistent with my vision then my vision will start to become created.
3.  Patience is key!  To quote my boss, "Is this a hill you are willing to die on?"  That one statement alone helped me see the importance of patience.
4.  Finally, as long as I always do what I think is best for children I can be at peace with my work.
I think it is apparent I don't claim to have all the answers and we will see if I can figure out the final stages of posting this for anyone to read but that is fine, because when I stop learning I will stop living.  Whether it is how to post a blog or how to lead a building there is nothing that I can't learn.

Peer Court Part 1

      End of October 2012 while sitting in my principal's office and discussing student behavior; the question was asked, "What can be done to change students' behaviors because suspensions don't work?"  As we talked about it we came to a realization, which we all know, that students will listen to other students more than they will listen to an adult.  So then the question became, "How can we get students to take more of an active leadership role in our schools discipline?"  After some discussion the idea of a Peer Court system started to be developed.  
     Our thoughts started flowing:  
  • A system where students went before a jury of their peers. 
  • The jury should be 8th Graders
  • The jury needs to be leaders but not necessarily the top students in the class 
  • There should be a faculty review board
  • The jury could apply and interview
  • the jury should hand out a restorative justice sentence not a punitive consequence
     We were excited, "How powerful this could be?" and "What a way we can change the culture of our building!".  
So we had an idea, now it was time to put it into action.........  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Restorative Justice, Giving Students A Chance To Learn And Repay/Repair

Restorative’s funny how we change.  Ten years ago I went to court for a speeding ticket and saw a teen get sent to Teen Court and man was I upset that, "he was getting off so easy!"  But now as an Assistant Principal I have implemented Peer Court a restorative justice program at our school and I am beating the drum for more Restorative Justice programs.  Restorative Justice is a peaceful conflict resolution process that works by bringing together all parties of a conflict and helping them identify and heal the harm their conflict or misconduct has caused.   Based on respect, Restorative Justice engages all affected in a discussion to answer three basic questions:
What happened?
Who has been affected and how?   
How can we make things right?
This allows students to learn and grow from their infraction not just be served a consequence that has nothing to do with the infraction.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Discipline Should Change Behavior Not Make You Feel Better

     Over the years I have dealt a lot with student discipline.  While as a lead teacher that would handle any team discipline or discipline that arose while the administration wasn't in the building, as a Dean of Students, or as an Assistant Principal I have always held a few principles in mind while doling out discipline:

  • Discipline needs to be consistent but isn't 1 size fits all.
  • Discipline needs to change behavior.
  • Discipline isn't to make me or the offended party feel better.
     Some of these principles make people uncomfortable, confused, or even angry but I will gladly sit and discuss these principles with anyone.  First, I do feel that discipline must be consistent.  If punching a someone is against the rules for 1 student it should be against the rules for all students, but that doesn't mean that every student should get the exact same punishment.  For instance of all if a student punches someone because they are angry it is different that if they punch someone because a Volkswagen Bug drives by.  Both need a consequence but the Bug might just need a reminder of the rules where the angry person might need a more severe consequence.  
      The next reason why both students don't always need the same consequence is that a consequence should only be used if it will change behavior.  If you have a student that constantly talks out and has been given a detention everyday for 2 weeks straight (which they serve) and they keep talking out; are the detentions changing their behavior?  Maybe a detention won't help that student and they need a more creative consequence.
      Finally, discipline shouldn't be given out to make the adult or offended feel better.  This can be tough because teachers may want the student, "to get what they deserve" or may be pushing for a consequence because they are angry.  It is important to remember discipline should be given out to change behavior not to make anyone else feel better.