Culture

Creativity and Innovation in Secondary Education

Guest post by Brian Pickering

What can secondary schools do to build a learning environment that fosters creativity and innovation?

Seven years ago, the leadership team at Contoocook Valley Regional High School, or ConVal, set off on a mission to answer this question. The goal was to guarantee all students the opportunity for academic and social support, as well as learning extensions and enrichment. (more…)

Redefining the High School Experience: A Trauma-Informed Approach

Guest post by Deborah Moya

What makes ABQ Charter Academy (ABQCA) different from any traditional high school or charter school? I believe our mission statement says it all: “The mission of ABQ Charter Academy is to redefine the high school experience.” Many of our scholars have had very negative experiences in traditional high schools. They seek to find a place where they belong, and we offer an environment that is centered on each individual scholar and their unique differences.  (more…)

5 Ways to Create a Supportive School Community

Guest post by Nathan Boyd

One of the most important lessons I have learned as a school principal is that children need to be in a relaxed state of mind in order to perform at their full potential. If students’ physical and emotional needs are not being met, their minds will not be ready to engage. Sounds obvious, right? Actually, creating the right conditions for students to learn is one of the biggest challenges for us as educators, because so many factors are beyond our immediate control. (more…)

Using Feedback to Foster a Collaborative Campus Culture

Guest post by Melissa King-Knowles

When I was a teacher, I started using feedback looping processes to survey my high school students about particular units and methods of assessment. I asked what they liked and didn’t like and sought input on my teaching practice. With their brutal (ahem, I mean beautiful) honesty, students brought me to my knees on a couple of occasions. (more…)

That’s a Wrap for this Year’s National Principals Month

 Our month-long celebration of National Principals Month has concluded and schools across the country took the opportunity to say “thank you” to their principals in really meaningful ways.

Video Contest

One way was through the student video contest, which challenged students to create fun short videos telling us why they love their principal. This year’s winners are: (more…)

Get Ready for National Principals Month

Next to classroom instruction, the role of an effective school leader is crucial to the success of a school and its students. That’s why NASSP, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of School Administrators have designated October as National Principals Month to honor principals nationwide. (more…)

Positive School Culture: Make It the Principle

Guest post by Lizzie Sider

Lizzie Sider is an 18-year-old singer/songwriter born and raised in Boca Raton, FL. She is also the founder of the bully prevention foundation Nobody Has The Power To Ruin Your Day, through which she has personally visited over 350 schools with her original bully prevention assembly. In her post below, Lizzie offers principals some observations related to the importance of promoting a positive school culture. Lizzie’s endeavor highlights key values all global change ambassadors should possess, including promoting awareness/perspectives and empathetic action. (more…)

Tell us Why #TogetherIsBetter

In education, we rarely achieve success on our own. In fact, as school leaders, we do our best work when we share our goals and empower those around us to get there. (more…)

Celebrate National Principals Month

As we all know, principal leadership is an essential fuel within schools that ultimately determines optimal student and school performance and success. But we also know that principals and the work they do in schools around the country are too often overlooked. (more…)

Fifty Years in the Making

By Stuart A. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

At first glance it seemed like an unlikely place for an extended philosophical discussion of education. Then again perhaps it was the perfect setting for teachers, young and old, to gain an appreciation for the potential lifelong impact of their classrooms and consequently the heavy responsibility that possible outcome brings with it.

And to think it was supposed to be simply a 50-year high school reunion.

Oldies but goodies

For the sake of full disclosure I must explain that recently I was dragged by my best friend thousands of miles, kicking and screaming most of the journey, to a gathering of my high school class of 1964. For my buddy this event was just another in a long series of these get-togethers. Of course he had good reasons to relish these meetings—fifty years ago he had been the star of the state championship football team, steady date of the captain of the cheerleading squad and on his way to a scholarship to the University of Virginia. I, the owner of a significantly lower social profile during those same years, was far less motivated to revisit a world in which I perceived I had made scant impact.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was not a total outcast among the 200 in attendance and that my experiences in the classroom both as a student and teacher would somehow become center stage.

Time does not dull all memories

It was at breakfast on the Sunday after the final gathering and a group of six alums were gathered around a large round table. Richard, now a dentist in Lake Tahoe, posed an interesting question to the assembled group: “Which of your teachers was the most influential in your life?” Without hesitation I answered “My Junior English teacher John Harocopus,” then added, “he was my model in my career especially in terms of classroom management. He was young and not physically imposing but he was passionate about his subject and ran a wonderfully disciplined and demanding class.” I went on to explain that I later adapted many of his methods in my own classroom.

My friend, who in addition to his athletic talents was highly successful academically, quickly joined the conversation. “For me it was Col. Brose. He brought history alive for me and to this day he gave me a strong interest in the subject. He was a great teacher who brought the curriculum alive for everyone in the class.” A former star basketball player seated across the table nodded in agreement with this choice.

And so it went for fifteen minutes, six men all hovering around the age of 68 and five decades removed from public education vividly discussing the profound influence wielded by educators they had encountered when John Kennedy was President. In the midst of the conversation my wife, a retired Biology teacher, leaned over to me and whispered, “More than a little scary what a difference teachers can make. Every person in education should have to listen to something like this.” The proof of this assertion was clearly on display.

And on the flip side

During the course of the reunion not all of the memories were so positive. At the second reception a man approached me and introduced himself by saying, “I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Steve Alsop. We were in eleventh-grade U.S. History together.” Surprisingly once he had given me his name I did, indeed, remember him. “When I saw your name on the list of attendees,” he continued, “I couldn’t wait to ask you if you remembered the time you were asked the question about the British and Colonists in the Revolutionary War.”

My blank look indicated a total lack of recall of an event that occurred in 1962. “I’m afraid I don’t,” I said somewhat sheepishly.

A smile crossed his face. It was apparent that this incident was still an amazingly fresh memory. “So that crazy teacher of ours says to the class, ‘Given all of the circumstances entering into the war, which side had the advantage, the British or the Colonists?’” The grin widened. “Well, everyone was terrified that she would call on them and then she looked at you and said, ‘Stu Singer, what do you think?’ I’ll never forget how you gave a wonderful answer explaining all of the numerous factors favoring the British. It was a compelling argument, an extremely powerful argument. So after you had finished and most of the class was nodding in agreement she says, ‘Now that was very logical, but it just wasn’t the answer I was looking for.’ Steve shook his head and put his hand on my shoulder. “At that point you just looked back at me a few rows away and rolled your eyes. I will never forget that moment.”

While I had no such recollection the implication was clear—this hypocritical and bizarre response by a teacher had left a permanent and obviously negative impression on this individual. The question that went through my mind was “how many other people at this reunion have similar stories?”

During the course of the three days other teachers, some good others not so much, were placed under a similar half-century old microscope. The take-home message for this retired educator was clear. Fifty or more years after the classroom instruction had been completed the palpable impact on many of the students, positive and negative, remained.

It is as important lesson for educators in 2014 as it was in 1964.