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Friday, May 12, 2017

Award-winning film screening at Selah School District

Beginning last spring a group of teachers representing each building in the district, called the District Advisory Council, has been meeting with Superintendent Shane Backlund to discuss innovative ways to help meet the needs of the 21st Century learner.  The foundation for the group’s discussions has come from their book study of the text titled, Most Likely to Succeed.  The book is a call to action for educators and communities to reimagine public education to help meet the needs of today’s learner.  The book is also an award winning documentary film that has been shown in schools all over the country.  On May 31 at 6:30 PM, the District Advisory Council will be hosting a screening of this film for the entire Selah educational community.  The purpose of this event is to foster meaningful discussion among educators, administrators, parents, and students about how current obstacles can be overcome and steps toward change can be taken on a local level.  The hope is that these discussions will continue into next year and turn into partnerships, ideas and meaningful change to help our students be more prepared for their future.
The screening and brief discussion will take place at Selah Middle School in the VPAC on Wednesday, May 31 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM and childcare will be provided.  If you’re interested in attending and being a part of the conversation please RSVP here.
If you have questions please contact Crystal West at 698-8001. We look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Final Reading Challenge for JCP

Here is our final reading challenge of the 2016-17 school year: Record all of the minutes you read after school during the month of May. The class from each grade level with the most minutes read will be selected.

These three classes will do one of the following:
1. One class will duct tape Dr. Darling to a pole.

2. The next class will pelt Dr. Darling with water balloons

3. The final class will shave Dr. Darling's head.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Teachers aren't the only ones who cry...



This is hanging in my office. The sticky note reads, "...or this office!!" but no one listens. I have teachers and parents crying in my office quite often. But as principals, we encounter things that really get to us. Sometimes, they are heartbreaking issues or events we are forced to deal with. But occasionally we have heartwarming ones that make the tears flow as well.

A short time ago, I had a little guy who was besides himself when his mom dropped him off for school that morning. He did not want to be here. He was throwing a tantrum, flailing about, causing quite a scene. I managed to get him into my office where he proceeded to kick the walls, push over chairs, all the while becoming more and more adamant that he didn't want to be here. After about 15 minutes (and some applesauce, crackers and juice) I was able to get him seated in a chair and we talked for a few minutes. I told him how lucky he was to have Mrs. X as his teacher, how much she loves him and cares about him and how much she misses him when he's not there. I told him that I'd walk with him to class when he was ready, but was still a bit worried that he'd try to run out the front door once we left my office. A walk that would normally take 2 minutes to get to his room took about 8, with pausing, stopping, and even moving backwards a few times. But eventually we made it to his classroom.

His teacher had absolutely no idea what his morning had been like. She had no idea what sort of struggles we had, and how long it took to finally get him to the point of actually entering the classroom. Even now, I really don't know what transpired with his morning, though I do know a good deal about his homelife and needless to say, school is his safe place.

But when we opened that door, I saw his classmates and teacher seated on the carpet. His teacher immediately turned towards him and said, "Oh Johnny! (not his real name) I am so glad you are here. We miss you so much when you're not here and we were worried you weren't here today. We are so happy to see you."

The shoulders that had been drooping were not raised. The eyes that had been staring at shoes were now fixed on the loving, smiling face of his teachers. Without hesitation or even a look back at me, he walked over to the carpet and joined his class.

I had a tough time finding my way back to the office because of the stinging and blurred vision that comes with pushing back tears. But I couldn't hold them back. She had no idea how badly he needed to hear that. We never have any idea how badly our students (staff, parents, children...) need to hear that. And we may not always believe it, but as the great Rita Pearson said, "You can never let them know that."

Greet every students as though they are the most precious, important, capable person in the world. When you do, watch their reaction, and even greater, watch their academic and behavioral growth. When students believe that you believe in them, they'll move mountains.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Can Your Thoughts Physically Impact Others?

I can teach you how to change the behavior of others. You can actually change how they act. No, it doesn't require a weekend retreat with Yoda trying to move boxes or lift your star-fighter out of a bog (Star Wars fans, I'm sure it's not really called a star-fighter, please don't send hate mail.)

Researcher Bob Rosenthal scientifically demonstrated this, first with rats. He labeled some as smart and some as dumb without telling anyone. When they were put in a Skinner Box, the "smart" ones completed the task twice as fast as the "dumb" ones. Problem is, they were the exact same ordinary white lab rats. 
So, the question then is: Why did they perform better?
Answer: because of the perceptions of the people handling the rats. Researchers touched the "smart" rats more, treated them more warmly, even talked to them differently. The Pygmalion EffectA type of self-fulfilling prophecy where if you think something will happen, you may unconsciously make it happen through your actions or inaction. 

Carol Dweck, (psychology researcher at Stanford, Author, Growth Mindset), in this recent podcast said when we have negative expectations or perceptions we usually stand further away from people, we touch them less, make less eye contact. And we are COMPLETELY UNAWARE of how our expectations impact the way we engage people.

Our perceptions and expectations (our thoughts) literally move people.
There are many studies showing the impact of how people perform in relation to how they are expected to perform. Even the very labels placed on them impact their performance. Read about "Brown Eyes vs. Blue Eyes" experiment or watch this documentary. This obviously takes the thinking concept and brings it to a whole new level, but it still applies to my Jedi-way of thinking. Read this article/watch videos (Warning: 2nd video has a swear word) on how thoughts impacted rice in water. 

Rosenthal did an experiment similar to the rats but with teachers. They were told they could expect X from this group of students and Y from the other. Rosenthal found that "teachers appear to teach more and to teach it more warmly to students for whom they have more favorable expectations." 
-How are you using your powers? 
-Are your students performing better because you
 have positive perceptions and expectations for them? 
-Or are you, without even knowing it, 
actually causing them to perform worse?
-DO YOUR STUDENTS BELIEVE 
THAT YOU BELIEVE IN THEM??

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sharks will either make you better....or eat you. (a repost)


Fishing boats will often travel for days and days to find that prize catch. The problem they encountered was, when traveling 3-4 days back to unload their catch, their prize fish were no longer valuable. They spent so much time floating around in their little container, swimming in the same waters, they lost their muscle tone. Stagnant. Complacent. In a rut. This is how we have always done things.

So fisherman started adding sharks to the tanks in the boats. Sure, a few fish were eaten, but the rest stayed active and alive. Adding sharks improved their success.

Admin: Hire sharks. Anyone can join the pack, follow in line, do what the others do. But NO ONE IMPROVES. We need to hire employees that will challenge and extend our teams.

Teachers: change things up, for you and your students. Routines are valuable, but are they routine because it's easy for you, or are they routines that still challenge students. How many times during the school day do you make your students uncomfortable by challenging their thinking? How many times a day are you challenged, chased by a shark?

Parents: there are good "sharks" you can throw into the mix: engaging and fun summer learning programs; academic rewards for students making academic gains (ex. if they read a book, their reward is you buy them a new book, or check out a new book from the library); find ways to challenge your child to get them outside of their comfort zones. It's good for them.

I'm both a stick and a carrot guy. Sharks would work great for me. But I also like having that reward dangling for me to work towards. Find what your team needs, what your students need, what your child needs. But whatever it is they need to be motivated, you need to motivate them.