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Update from Alaska!

Moving

If you didn't follow along, Staci and I wrote a blog describing our journey up here. It was really fun, and our kids did a great job!

Kodiak Middle School

Starting as a principal at a new school has been such a fun learning experience. There is so much going on, and everyone says you don't really know what it is like until you are sitting in the principal's chair. Many of the principals I interview for my podcast have mentioned that. It is so true. And it is fascinating. I am having so much fun! I love new challenges, I love learning new things, and I love working with people to create something really amazing. So, let's get down to some of the nitty gritty!

Assistant Principal

Damon Hargraves is my assistant principal and he is a rockstar! I am so lucky to be working with him. We hit it off really well to begin with. When I was interviewing, and I came up here for an interview, he invited me to stay at his house. I was only here for a weekend, and he and I stayed up late discussing educational philosophy numerous times and recognized quickly that we are on the same page.

Damon has been in charge of a distance learning grant for the last couple years, and this is the first year that is off his plate as the assistant principal, and so we are both able to focus fully on our school, students, and teachers.

He and I agree about a lot of things, and we have the same goal, to serve children. But what I am really liking about Damon is his ability to see things differently than me and reel me back in when I get too far off. We've had many conversations about how to do things, and he is willing and able to say "That's not a good idea." It is so vital to have someone like that. For example, we were talking about our building inservice and I had planned something and put it into place. When I told Damon about it, he said that while we may need that information, it wasn't what we needed at that time. So, we cancelled. He was right, I was wrong. We trade positions on right and wrong often, call each other on it, make adjustments, and move on. It is awesome.

Damon is also willing to do silly things. Follow our facebook page for some of our antics. We have made a couple videos, and done some phone calls home to get some parents involved. It is fun working with him. Our relationship will drive our school in a positive direction, and it is worth recognizing and being on the same page.

District and Building Inservice

For district and building inservice we wanted to create a positive climate in the building. We played games and got to know each other during the first couple meetings. Damon and I made breakfast for our teachers, and then played some getting-to-know-you games. We played fox and rabbit, concentration ball, and had a teacher do a team-building activity.

Then the NORMS. Norms are an important part of any faculty, and I wanted to show teachers that I was going to trust them to come up with norms that meant something to them. We took a long time to do this, but I felt (and the feedback said) that it was worthwhile. {" It was a hard process to go through, but that is OK because we can do hard things."} The teachers really showed that they can do hard things that day, and they showed that by their responses to feedback about the opening inservice.

The Teachers

I am super excited to work with this group of teachers. They are excited and eager to help students learn. That is really a great place to start. With 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, we have one science, math, and social studies teacher per grade. We have two ELA teachers per grade, and two STEM teachers that teach all three grades.

iObservation

We are using the Marzano iObservation protocol for evaluations in our district. Going from a paper-based eval system in my last district to an all electronic version with support for walkthroughs is a game changer. The superintendent challenged us to be in three classrooms every day, and so far Damon and I have done a pretty good job of that. I know teachers are not used to that, but they have responded very well. We are learning this tool together and there is a lot of room for growth for all of us. But it is so fun to see growth after about 100 observations in the first month of school. As I said, our teachers are great, and it is exciting to see what they are doing. I've always said that when I was a principal, I would make it a priority to be in the classrooms to be that instructional leader, and it has been the best part of my job, so far. I love it!

It is going to be a great year!