Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Positive Calls

Many people in the #PrincipalsinAction group have shared over the past couple of years that they started doing 100 positive calls on the 100th day of school.  I was afraid to take on this challenge.   I didn't think I could do it.  Don't get me wrong, I understand the power of the positive call.  I made them as a teacher and I even started last year as a principal.  To be honest though, I probably only made about ten last year; 100 seemed way out of reach!

Well this year was going to be different.  I decided I would take on the challenge, but for me, I was going to be realistic.  Due to all day meetings on the 100th day of school and the following day, I gave myself a week.  At the end of the week I only has 82 calls finished. But guess what, I didn't give up.  Today I completed my 100th call!

Each call started out pretty much the same way.  After the initial introduction I quickly said, "Don't worry, everything is ok with ________."  When a parent sees the number from school they often assume their child is hurt or possibly in trouble.  I had to quickly reassure it was neither.

I then shared the positive news that was relayed to me by the staff members on campus and it was immediately followed with joy, appreciation and even a few tears.

In the days to follow I had kids coming up to me with big smiles on their face letting me know that their mom told them what I shared or their dad let them listen to my voicemail.  I even had a parent stop me at pick up in front of the school to tell me that she just told her daughter what I called to share and her daughter couldn't believe it.

These calls brightened the day of the parents and students, but selfishly, they brightened my day too. They kept me going through some tough days. They made me smile.  They made me slow down and appreciate all the good at our school.

I can't wait to make more!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Culture of Reading

As I sat in bed tonight with my two boys, all of us reading our books,  I smiled.  This makes me happy.  My boys enjoy reading.  They choose to do it and they sometimes complain when they don’t have more time to read.  Then my mind switched to school and all of my kids there.  This is what I want for them.  I want all of them to enjoy reading now and for years to come.  

Recently I read Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven L. Layne that shared strategies for building lifelong readers.  A colleague shared it with me as something of interest due to the fact that we are always talking about getting kids to read, but more importantly getting kids to enjoy reading.  Something stood out to me in the very beginning of the book.  Steven talks about the disengaged readers that are forgotten by people because “fostering a love of reading in kids is not a curricular objective.”  He goes on to state that “we don’t seem overly concerned with making reading an attractive choice for kids.”  This really got me thinking.  With all the things that we have in society to grab the interests of kids, what are we doing with reading?  How are we creating a culture where kids want to read?  

This isn’t about teaching kids how to read or what to do with kids who are struggling to decode or comprehend, but it’s about the culture of the school.  What do we do to show kids that reading is what we value?  That reading is something we do?  That books are fun and enjoyable?

I truly believe that part of getting kids to enjoy reading is making it part of the culture.  We have made it part of our culture at home for my own boys, and we need to do the same at school.  

When I look around our campus, there are many things happening in classrooms and school wide that promote a culture of reading. Here are just a few:

Book Club - Two of our teachers started a book club for any interested students in 3rd-5th grade.  There are a variety of books to choose from so students aren’t limited to just one.  They read the book, come back, and give a book talk to the club.  After listening to the talks, the students get to choose another one to read.  

Reading Lounge - Inspired by our Voxer book club over the summer for The Book Whisperer, our reading intervention teacher devoted half of her class to a reading lounge for the students.  The lounge is open three days a week during recess for students to come, check out books and read.  It’s been quite a hit with all grade levels!  

Mystery Reader - Many classes have mystery readers come and surprise the kids by reading aloud to them.  It may be a family member, community member or a high school student.  
Book Cart - Our students council has put together a book cart that they bring out at recess multiple times a month.  It’s a give and take policy.  Kids bring a book they’ve already read to donate and pick a new one.  

Lunch with the Principal  - We are Readers - This year we switched up our lunch with the principal.  Instead of focusing on students being picked for the three school wide rules, we’ve centered it around reading.  Kids are chosen for a variety of reasons, all tied to reading: loves to read, new love of reading, improvement in reading...it can be anything!

Free Books  - We have accumulated many books in order to give them out to kids in need.  With a mixed demographic of students we have some kids that don’t have many books at home.  As teachers and I talk to kids and discover the need for more books at home, we send home a bundle of them.  

Read Aloud by Principal  - Throughout the year I get into classrooms and read to the kids.  Each time it’s a new picture book that I read to all the classes.  I love being with them and sharing my love of books.  
Reading Mentors - Students from our local high school work with a group of kids once a week after school on their reading.  Yes, this partly due to helping their reading skills, but mainly we hope that having the high school students read with them and model their love of reading, it will add the the culture at our school and inspire some of our students.  

One of the great things about education is that we are all in this together.  These ideas are not unique to our school, nor are they the only things out there.  We’ve taken these ideas from books we have read and schools we have been in contact with...and we hope to borrow more!

One of the best things I heard before winter break was when a kindergarten teacher shared with me that her students opened their gift from her, an Elephant and Piggie book, and they all got excited and yelled, “We LOVE reading!” She was excited to share and I was excited to hear it.  I want to keep that love growing as the kids continue to grow.  

I’d love to hear from people...what do you do at your school to create a culture of reading?