Season of …

 In Assistant Principals Conference, Fall Professionals Conference, Principal Programs

What season is it?

Some years ago, I recall a 3rd grade writing prompt that asked students to write about their favorite season.  Students were asked to describe details about their favorite season, using their five senses,including what they usually did during that season and why they enjoyed it so much.  The obvious topics for students to write about should have been fall, winter, spring, and summer, right? To my surprise, and delight, I recall walking around while students were writing and saw some of them writing about football season, hunting season, and Christmas season.  How could that possibly be wrong, when we hear that term so often, applied to almost anything? In Indiana, after all, it’s often very hard to identify the weather season. In the fall, we might actually have 80-90 degree weather or the summer could include weather that warrants a sweatshirt.  In the world of an educator, you might hear references to “testing season,” “fall sports season,” or even “teacher evaluation season.” What season is it for you?

For me, and I would guess for many of you, it has been the season of GOAL SETTING.  Looking at past data, assessing baseline levels, and establishing yearly goals have consumed much of our leadership team’s work to kick-off the year.  The challenge is always to set the expectations high, but with reasonable and attainable goals. The other challenge is to communicate those goals to staff and students in ways that make sense.  Aside from all of the numerical calculations and trend lines, we are focusing on two other important components – environment and processes. If every member of the school community is not only aware of the goals, but can also feel and experience the actions needed to attain those goals,  then we know everyone will be headed toward the same destination.

What does your school environment communicate?

If anyone walked into our school, we would hope they would notice our focus on reading.  We want our students and teachers to be a part of establishing an environment of reading, where nearly every area of the school promotes it.   For example, we always choose a yearly theme that encourages a positive character trait. This year, we selected the “Choose Kind” message from the book, Wonder.  To connect with the message in the book, we put up displays, organized a guest speaker,  involved every student in a writing activity, and teachers used the book as a read aloud.  We also recommended additional books that would connect to students in the same way. To our delight, there is a rush of requests for these books in the library and students are talking about the story all over the school!  In addition, students are setting their own goals for reading books, improving fluency, and raising other literacy skills pertinent to their personal levels. That’s an environment of reading!

What do your processes communicate?

Data meetings, and data walls….do you have them?  I’m sure you do! This year, we will discuss students’ reading levels every month, as a standing item in our grade level meetings.  For instance, all of the students take an assessment that measures reading levels. From there, any students below proficiency are assessed for prerequisite skills.  Interventions are then aligned to those prerequisite skills, growth tracked, and the pattern continues. Nothing special, right? The difference-maker is in the recognition and celebration of student progress.  Students are owning their data and tracking their own reading goals in personal data folders. They are being recognized by teachers through classroom displays, rewards, and parent communication. Processes that promote reading!

Whatever the “season” may be in your school, I hope your kick-off has been positive and you’re well into the first quarter!  (Yes, I am a football fan!) Speaking of seasons, IASP enters the “conference season,” as we continue preparations for the Assistant Principals Conference and the Fall Professionals Conference.  Do you need some new plays? New ideas? Deeper knowledge of social and emotional initiatives? How about the valuable networking of Principals? Register and make plans now! We hope to see you there!

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