MS Weekly Staff Memo – February 28, 2015

What’s On My Mind:
As luck would have it (and for those of you who know me well, you know I don’t really believe in luck), I have had the opportunity to have a few eye-opening conversations lately.  These conversations occurred with all three sectors of our population – staff, students, and parents.  Interestingly enough the overall “theme” seemed to be consistent, therefore, I thought maybe this was a sign that I should address this topic with all staff members in this week’s memo.  It has to do with #csdpowerofwe.  
First off, in The Basic School Model, the leadership is shared.  Teachers are empowered as leaders and parents are viewed as partners.  The Principal’s role is that of leading learner and keeper of the mission and vision.  Learning should be student-centered, and in that regard, students should have a large voice in the role of his/her education.  Plus, we all know that “choice” is the key element in student buy-in and overall ownership in his/her learning.  Therefore, we are all considered leaders, and it takes each of us working together on a consistent basis in order to keep the school community on track.  #csdpowerofwe
Community is precious and does not happen by accident.  It requires a constant, deliberate effort on everyone’s part in order to keep it healthy, functional, and strong.  In my experience, one of the most destructive forces against community is something known in the field of psychology as “emotional triangling.”  This occurs when people have concerns or frustrations with someone in the community (or family), and rather than going directly to the source, they go a third party (who is typically not directly involved).  I have seen staff members do this with their colleagues, and I have seen parents do this with teachers.  I am convinced that 90% (or more) of our problems would disappear if we eliminated this “triangling” approach and dealt with our issues/concerns/problems head-on by going directly to the person with whom we have the conflict.  Of course, this needs to be done in a mature, professional manner while assuming the best of the other person.  It also means that we have to be open to others and set our egos aside for the sake of our students and the school community.  But these types of courageous, collaborative conversations, however hard they may be in the moment, can be extremely effective in promoting the health of our organization as a whole.  In the event someone comes to you (whether it be a colleague, a parent, or a student) to express concerns about a third party, we should always redirect them back to the source.  (And I would add that it is extremely helpful to give that “source” a heads up so they won’t be caught off guard!)   Not only is it okay to tell a colleague or a parent that you can’t participate in a discussion about someone else, it is expected.  Once again, it is best done in a nonjudgemental, mature, and professional manner, but out of respect for our community, we must be bold about defining boundaries as to what is not acceptable when put in uncomfortable situations.  As leaders and keepers of the vision, we must be diligent about not having conversations with others (or about others) that do not directly involve us as it is unprofessional and breeds dysfunction within our precious community.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered situations where that “third party” was completely unaware of the issue!  As we all know, it’s impossible to fix something that we don’t even realize is broken, so let’s always give the other person the benefit of the doubt and respect them enough to go directly to them with our concerns.  #csdpowerofwe
In closing, I want to be upfront about some recent feedback I have received, myself, as leader of our school.  Out of concern and out of love, a staff member shared with me that I always appear to be very busy and that as a result of my “busy-ness,” I come across as unavailable, thereby leaving staff members feeling unsupported.  Gulp.  Now while this was hard to hear, I am so grateful for this person sharing this perception with me.  I would never, ever in a million years want anyone to feel unsupported at this school.  Yes, like all of you, I am very busy, and I don’t expect this to ever change.  If it did, then I think we should all be worried as people who are constantly striving to be better should be rather active!  BUT I never want my “busy-ness” to send the message that I don’t have time for anyone at this school.  Because this person’s approach was loving, kind, and truly coming from a place of care and concern, I was able to hear the message without feeling personally attacked.  The key is in how tactfully we deliver the message.  Our approach is everything.  As as a result of this courageous conversation, I realized I needed to more clearly (and frequently) articulate my “availability plan” so that everyone knows how to reach me in the event I am needed.
In non-emergency situations, you can email me anytime to set up a meeting.  I will try to be as accommodating as I can for folks who show up at my door, but in the name of full transparency, scheduling appointments ahead of time is very helpful to me.  However, I understand that sometimes things arise in the moment, so never refrain from “popping in” if a situation arises.
In unexpected or emergency situations, please follow the steps below:
  • The best way to reach me is by text.  My cell number is 704-437-0837.  I carry my phone with me at all times.  If you do not hear back from me rather quickly, it is because I am in a situation that I can’t respond (an emotional meeting where someone is sharing delicate info, a crying child or adult, I’m on the phone and physically can’t respond to the text at that moment, etc…).  If that’s the case, drop down to the next bullet.
  • Notify the front desk that you need admin support.  If I am not available,  Leslie, Marianne, or a teacher leader will help out.  I was recently made aware of a giant misconception that I want to clear up now.  Although Juli spends most of her time in MS, it is absolutely OKAY to involve another admin if Juli is not available.  In fact, we expect you to!  The admin team is exactly that – a team!  So we work together to address issues as they arise.  (Along those same lines….. A teacher recently confessed to not handling a situation in the moment because another staff member told her that Juli needed to handle it.  She refrained from addressing the situation for fear of stepping on my toes.  I am SO glad she shared this with me as this is something I want to clear up immediately!  ALL teachers are responsible for ALL students ALL of the time.  It takes ALL of us working as a team to address things as they arise!  Never refrain from addressing something because “admin” should handle.  If you need further support or you feel the situation or student(s) require another layer of accountability, by all means involve admin.  But please know that we expect ALL staff members to address any inappropriate behaviors they may witness in the moment.  Always.)
  • If a student needs to be removed from your room immediately, please do so!  Once again, notify the front desk that you are sending a student their way and that you need admin involvement asap.  We would never, ever want you to compromise the learning environment of your class, nor would we ever want a situation to go unaddressed simply because we weren’t in our office at that moment.  Remember – we believe mistakes are how people learn, and we would never want to rob a student from this opportunity for growth.  The Front Desk folks play a huge role in this, so please communicate with them as needed.  And if you started by texting Juli (as mentioned in the first bullet), she will already have a heads up that there is an issue waiting. 🙂
So in the spirt of leading by example and practicing what I preach, I want to take this opportunity to solicit some feedback from you in hopes of strengthening our school community in the weeks and months to come!  If you would, please take two moments to complete this brief survey that will provide me with formative data I can use to become a more effective leader and serve you better in this final stretch of the school year.  I thank you, in advance, for your time, and deeply appreciate your willingness to help me better serve you and our school.  I also encourage you to take some time getting similar feedback from your students.  It takes so little time to do and the impact on the overall environment can be significant!
Teacher Feedback for Juli
#csdpowerofwe – I love the “me’s” in our “we.”  It is an honor and privilege to be a member of this community!  Thank you for your everyday leadership and bravery.  Our students are blessed to have such caring, respectable adults in their lives.
Upcoming Events:
Monday, March 2nd
8:00-11:00 – 7th Grade ELA EOG Prep planning (half day – a.m.) in Juli’s office (Janet, Dorothy, Christy G)
11:00-12:00 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon in MS Media Center – Chinese New Year!
7:30 – Parent Advisory Meeting at HS
Tuesday, March 3rd
8:00-11:00 – Andrew Dearmin planning half day (a.m.) with Juli in Juli’s office
Wednesday, March 4th
3:30 – Staff Meeting – MS/HS vertical planning at HS
Thursday, March 5th
Dorothy Pagan Teacher Leader
Juli in classrooms! 🙂
Friday, March 6th
6th Grade Play in Black Box
Section 3 – 8:30
Section 4 – 9:45
Section 1 -12:15
Section 2 – 1:30
MS Showtime Choir Competition  that evening in Hickory.  Good luck!
Looking Ahead….
3/12/15 – Snow Make Up Day
3/13/15 – Snow Make Up Day
3/16/15 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
3/19-3/22 – MS Musical – Starmites
3/20/15 – 7th Grade Asia Day
3/27/15 – 8th Grade Civil Rights Museum
3/27/15 – 8th Grade Dance
3/30/15 – Ms Principal/Parent Coffee Talk – 8:30-9:30 in Media Center
4/3/15 – Snow Make Up Day
4/6/15 through 4/12/15 – Spring Break
4/13/15 – Classes resume
4/13/15 – Parent Advisory at HS – 7:30 p.m.
4/14/15 – K-12 Waitlist Tours
4/17/15 – CSD Prom
4/20/15 – CSD Board Meeting – 6:30 CSD HS
4/21/15 – Miles to Go Drug Prevention Parent Lecture – 8:30 and 7:00 – Elem Gym
4/22/15 – 7/8 Dance Sharing in MS Gym
4/24/15 – 6th Grade Field Trip to UNCC Botanical Gardens
4/24/15 – CSD Golf Tournament
4/29/15 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
4/30/15 – 6th Grade Dance Sharing in MS Black Box
5/2/15 – Spartan 5K
5/6/15 – MS Drama and ShowChoir Show Case in MS Black Box
5/7/15 – MS Band Concert – 6:30 in MS Gym
5/8/15 – Teacher Workday – Kindergarten Screening
5/15/15-5/16/15 – CSD Staff Retreat (arrive by 10 on Friday and leave at dinner time on Sat)
5/18/15 – 8th Grade Science EOG
5/19/15 – Reading EOG
5/20/15 – Math EOG
5/22/15 – Math 1 EOC for 8th graders taking Math 1
5/22/15 – Practicum Sharing Celebration
5/25/15 – NO SCHOOL – Memorial Day Holiday
5/26/15 – 5/27/15 – 7th Grade Ropes Course
5/27/15-5/29/15 – 8th Grade Kanuga Trip
5/27/15 – 6th Grade Holocaust Museum
6/1/15 – 7th Grade Change Project
6/2/15 – State of the School Address and Volunteer Appreciation 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at HS Black Box
6/2/15 – 8th Grade SLC’s ( appointment)
6/3/15 – Last day of school!
6/4/15 – HS Graduation
6/4/15 – 6/6/15 – Teacher Workdays
This topic has been rescheduled to our next Staff Meeting – March 18th
We are excited to have Connie join us for the March 18th staff meeting as she goes over some key points and issues dealing with Technology at CSD.  This will be a K-8 meeting occurring in the elementary gym.  In an attempt to answer any questions you may have regarding technology at CSD, we are asking that you submit questions ahead of time by filling out this quick google form.
EOG Prep – Please keep in mind that we will begin an intensive EOG review and prep period six weeks prior to the test (the week of March 30th right before Spring Break).  That means that diagnostic pre-tests need to be administered prior to this prep-period so we can use that data to inform our instruction and help students devise specific learning goals so they can attain mastery by year’s end.  I will be meeting with all teachers of tested subjects in the next couple of weeks to touch base about EOG Test Prep plans and see what I can do to help!  Please remember that while we want students to take these tests seriously and perform to their fullest potential, we are committed to maintaining a low-stress environment for both students AND teachers!  I only put this reminder out there so these dates don’t creep up on us and we call all be thinking ahead!
Speaking of soliciting feedback from students… This is an NPR interview that goes directly to the source – the students!  Take a few moments to listen to what these students said they wanted from their school experience and then think about soliciting similar feedback in your own classroom.  While they are middle schoolers and sometimes offer comments that clearly cannot be taken seriously, they oftentimes offer great ideas and make profound statements that can totally improve the teaching and learning that goes on in our classrooms.  If you haven’t done this type of exercise before, I encourage you to try it.  The results can be amazing!

10 Things Students Want Educators to Know:

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