Student-centeredness

Nurturing a Culture of Gratitude

Each year in November, we take time as a middle level school to emphasize the importance of gratitude. While we are an international school, we build off the American holiday of Thanksgiving as a foundation for celebrating recognition and thanks. Abundant research connects gratitude with a sense of purpose and happiness, and focusing on gratitude is an important way to help meet students’ social-emotional needs. (more…)

Closing the Opportunity Gap in Rural Alaska

Chief Ivan Blunka School is a preK­–12 school located in the Alaska bush community of New Stuyahok. In New Stuyahok, hunting, fishing, and subsisting off the land aren’t hobbies but a necessity for survival due to the lack of traditional economic opportunities. Our community is only accessible by air or boat, and even then only when the weather cooperates. Everything we need to run our school, from toilet paper to textbooks, is flown in via single-engine aircraft. (more…)

Ways to Teach Resiliency

As I reflect on the years that I have been at Whaley School, we are graduating more students each year, we are offering more elective classes that tie into what students want to do after graduation, and our teachers are working hard to create amazing lessons in and out of the classroom—all things which help build resiliency in our students. (more…)

Leading Through the Struggle

We spend a great deal of time as school leaders talking about building culture. We often consider the day-to-day elements of this work: eating lunch with the kids, visiting classrooms, being visible at all kinds of school events, and having meaningful conversations with teachers and students. The work of leading a school and building a culture is much like leading a family, full of joy and, inevitably, pain. (more…)

Learning From My Daughter: Unfiltered Feedback

Over the past three years, I have had an amazing opportunity to view my school in a different way as the principal to my daughter, Sidney. As you might expect, I think that she is a pretty amazing young lady, and I eagerly anticipated her sixth-grade year at Messalonskee Middle School (MMS). Before she started, Chuck Pullen, the tech education teacher at our school, told me that I would never look at MMS in the same way after she attended. How right he was! I have had hundreds of conversations about school with Sidney, and through those discussions, I have come to see MMS through her lens. (more…)

Making Student Connections: Will You Check on Me?

When a former colleague of mine, Joe Turner, was named teacher of the year, a reporter asked him for his advice to new teachers. He responded, “Teach every child like you’re their lifeline—like you’re their last chance to succeed.” (more…)

Student Discipline: It Takes More Than a Consequence

I vividly remember my middle level principal and the fear that hit my gut every time he would look at me or even walk by. He was six and a half feet tall, weighed close to 400 pounds, and his last name was Kevorkian. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that principal, especially if he never smiled and looked like he could be in the WWF as Andre the Giant’s tag-team partner? (more…)

Making Difficult Decisions In Students’ Best Interest

Like my colleagues across the globe, my daily battle revolves around how to make decisions through the lens of what is in the best interests of my students. This seems particularly trying in my current nontraditional school situation that is focused on dropout prevention, content mastery, and personalized learning—all still within the confines and with remnants of our traditional mindset. I often feel my opinion on what is in the “best interests” for our students can change several times within the same day. (more…)

How We Can Make School Special

Last Halloween, I took my 8-year-old daughter, Juliet, to a Brooklyn Nets game. She had just started playing basketball and was so excited to go to her first professional game that she gave up trick-or-treating to do it. That’s dedication! (more…)

Encouraging Student Involvement in Activities

Growing up, I didn’t have a role model to guide me in identifying what it was to excel as a student until I was involved in after-school activities and had a coach lead me on the path to grow—both academically and personally. My coach guided me, cared, and held me accountable. He showed me that through hard work, I could achieve my goals. My involvement in activities was a springboard to believing in myself and my abilities. In the end, it helped me earn a scholarship that provided me with an opportunity to further my education and become a mentor for others. (more…)