Blog Archives

It’s a New Day!

By: Jennifer Amburgy

I have had several experiences and conversations over the last few weeks that have made me thankful for the phrase “It’s a new day!”  Sometimes in our jobs and in our personal lives we get stuck in a rut and say, “I’ll do it differently the next time I’m in this situation,” or “I’ll change my ways next year/month.” Do we need to wait that long to make a change and make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others?

I am an educational leader, and I have seen numerous teachers look at their current classroom situation (including myself when I had a homeroom), and decide on a Friday to make a change, and by Monday their classroom environment is a new room with vitalization and purpose!

Classroom management not working like you had hoped? No need to wait until you get a new group of students the following year to implement a new management system and organize your classroom in a way to limit distractions during whole group and small groups…do it now!  Do your lessons feel boring to you (imagine how your students feel if you are bored)? Don’t wait until the next semester or year to find ways to engage your students while also covering the CCGPS…do it now! Have you wanted to implement guided reading and/or math groups into your lessons but are scared how to start? You can easily lower your student:teacher ratio with just 2-3 groups to get you started…do it now! Tired of doing things the same way year after year because that’s how it’s always been done? Don’t wait until next year to break the mold…do it now!

Earlier this month I went with a few teachers to the Georgia Educational Technology Conference (GaETC) and we saw numerous ways to integrate technology into lessons. This was my third time to the conference, but I found myself watching others at the conference almost as much as I was watching/listening to the presenters. These first-time participants were so eager to learn ways to embed technology into their lessons, not simply for the sake of using technology, but to give their students experiences/connections with the content that would not be possible without the technological tools.  These teachers were taking notes, tweeting tips to others not able to attend the conference using the hashtag #GaETC13, using the hashtag themselves to follow sessions they were not able to attend, and collaborating with strangers in the building on ways to connect their classrooms to take their students’ learning environments outside of their 4 walls in their building. Do you think these teachers are going to wait until next school year to try these tools and tips they learned about at this conference? I know the teachers in my school building that went were implementing changes the next Monday in their classroom. I bet they even wished we had school over the weekend so they could have implemented the changes the very next day!

Why wait to implement a change when you have identified something that needs changed and you have an idea of how to change it? Sure, there are natural breaks in the school year, like quarters, semesters, and school years, but Mondays are also a natural break to implement something new in your classroom as well.  What will you do differently in your classroom on Monday? After all, it’s a new day!

People Matter

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I just finished reading Todd Whitaker’s book What Great Principals Do Differently – Fifteen Things That Matter Most. I am eager to learn all that I can on this topic as I have recently obtained my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, and while I don’t have an ‘official’ role in this area yet, it’s not too soon to learn from those who have figured it out already. Between this book and the role model my current principal, Ron McAllister (@rondmac) have been, I feel I am off to a good start.

I found myself taking notes while reading the book as if Mr. Whitaker was going to reveal a magical formula at any moment. What I realized though while taking in his stories and advice is that at the core of everything he shared was that we need to remember that we need to never lose sight that we are in the people business, not just education.

While he shared 15 important things principals need to intentionally focus on, they all come down to one overarching theme – people matter.

Everything from hiring the right people, to investing time and training into the people, to listening to the people, and to respecting the people play a role in being an effective principal. Mr. Whitaker does a much better job at explaining all of these areas than I can, but he definitely made an impact on me.

It’s not just rolling out a new initiative to your staff, or checking off a checklist of things that need to be done, or handling discipline issues during the day, it goes much deeper than that. As a principal you need to seek out the best teachers in your building to filter your ideas and to learn from them, and when there are staff openings you need to fill those positions with teachers who can contribute to the building from day one. A teacher may be very knowledgeable in their content, but are they what’s best for students in that classroom? I don’t think any teacher wakes up in the morning with bad intentions for teaching their students, but the most effective teachers wake up with having higher expectations for themselves as a teacher each day. When those teachers realize that everything they do for their students needs to try and be better than it was in their classroom the day before, they take to heart their job and make that personal connection with their students to help them learn the content and let them know they care about them as a person.

The same can be said for effective principals. When teachers realize that their principal takes time to get to know them both professionally and personally, supports them when needed with students and parents, and models for them what respect looks like in all situations, then there are no limits to what that school can achieve. If relationships are the focus, then I believe the test scores will take care of themselves. Teachers will feel valued and want to do all they can for their students, and students will notice the effort their teachers are taking and they will want to participate in the engaging lessons.

Running a school is a daunting task I’m sure, but as long as you keep what’s best for all students at the heart of what you and your staff are doing, then you can know that you are on the right path. There will always be room for improvement, but by concentrating your efforts on the people in your building, then you will know what needs to be done and will find ways to model for them what they need in order to grow to become the best person they can be both in and out of the classroom.

I Believe…

I sat down tonight and wrote my belief statements as an educational leader.  Trying to put into words everything I believe about my role and education in a few sentences was challenging.  Please read what I’ve included, and I would appreciate your feedback on any gaps you may notice that I need to revisit.

I believe all decisions need to ensure they are student focused and made because they are best for students, and not because they are the easiest thing to do.

I believe all students can learn, but it is my role to make learning engaging and relevant to individual learners so they want to learn each day.

I believe technology needs to have an active role in education today to connect students globally and teach them to apply their knowledge to create new and improved products, while also preparing them for life after school.

I believe it is my role to help support the administration, students, teachers and parents and form a partnership between school and home to best serve the students.

I believe I need to continue to grow and learn each year just like I ask of my students.

What we do in education is much more than a bunch of words on a page, but these words are at the heart of who I am and what I do each day in my role.