Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Breakers Unite!

Where'd you go on your spring break?

As we return from spring break this week you hear that question a lot.  Where did I go?  I spent the week working on observation hours for my doctorate.  Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anyone else's.

Where did I go?
I spent the week at three schools shadowing various adminsitrators.  I learned alot about the job, the different schools and the different communities.  The peple I met were outstanding and the learning experiences were even better.  The getting up every morning left something to be desired for sure :-).

My first school - Neuwoehner High School

Spent the day with John T. Miller, Assistant Principal (and friend).

What is Neuwoehner High School?
Located in Town & Country, Missouri, Neuwoehner educates students 14 to 21 years with a range of disabilities. Students attending Neuwoehner live in several nearby school districts: Clayton, Ladue, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Normandy, Ritenour, Pattonville, Kirkwood, University City and portions of Parkway. The school also serves students with autism from throughout Central and South St. Louis County. (http://www.ssdmo.org/ssd_services/schools.html)

My experience:
OUTSTANDING!  This school thrives on meeting the unique needs of a very marginalized population of students.  Every one of the students in that building required some form of an IEP.  The school had students ranging in ability levels and differentiates based on readiness, ability, IEP, and every thing else imaginable.  The set up is very similar to an elementary setting where one teacher must cover a variety of subjects during their school day.  The teacher's job is even harder because not only are they the teachers in the classroom but also their IEP case manager.

Being able to watch Mr. Miller interact with teachers and students made this opportunity unique.  The school runs like every other school with bells at the beginning of the day and the end but everything that happens at the school is special, necessary and really uplifting.

This school is a diamond in the rough, if I hadn't been friends with Mr. Miller, I would have never know it existed.  The cost to run a school serving students from all over the St. Louis area with intense IEPs cannot be easy or cheap, but the impact this school and it's amazing teachers have on this population of students is immeasurable.

My second school - Washington Middle School

Spent the day with Adam Smith, Principal

What is Washington Middle School?
The mission of Washington Middle School is to maximize every student's academic potential and develop responsible, productive citizens.

Building and Facilities

Washington was built in 1970 with additions constructed in 1990,1991 and 2003. The school features six full science labs, a computer lab, a gymnasium with a stage, a full-sized track, and a football and soccer field. The two-story building is handicapped-accessible by elevator and ramps.


Technology is important at Washington Middle School. The school has two computer labs with 25 IBM computers in each lab. The library has an additional 25 computers to allow all students the opportunity to complete research through the World Wide Web. Each teacher has a computer within their classroom to enhance the presentation of, research for and preparation of curricular materials. All of the computers within the school are networked allowing instant communication throughout the school and district. The school also has two traveling smart boards, and all classrooms have cable television. http://washington.mehlvilleschooldistrict.com/wc/default.asp?Info=519272320_1-SchoolInformation--0)

My experience:

Adam Smith and I go back to teaching together and watching him excel as an assistant principal now to a principal position has been awesome to see.  As I continue to learn how to lead, it is great to have guys like Mr. Smith ahead of me blazing the trail and allowing me to come along for the ride.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Keenoy (his Assistant principal) allowed me to tag along for the day.  I toured the building and got a chance to see the building run for a majority of the day.  Mr. Smith handled some discipline issues during the day (about three), we discussed the building budget and the budget process, and began to look at rearranging a supervisory period to make more use of the RTI process.

The building was small, the population and number of teachers were relatively small which made for a great feel of the building.  The hallways weren't too crowded and the teachers, I felt, really knew one another.  The small student and teacher population made for a connected feeling within the building.

The one thing I noticed and as you can read above there was a distinct lack of technology.  Having 75 computers for a student population of  533 students makes for a unique experience.  I can tell the school and Mr. Smith are trying to add more technology with every meeting, lesson, and agenda in mind but there is a limited budget to make that change.  Having one of the labs dedicated to edison progress monitoring also limited the number of times a student can "touch" a computer and become a digital citizen.

My third school - Oakville Senior High School

Spent the day(s) with Jan Kellerman, Jim Kern, Janet Anthony, Brian Brennan and William Scheffler.

What is Oakville Senior High School?

Mission Statement

The mission of Oakville High School is to guide each student toward his/her full potential to become a responsible, contributing member of a global society.

Vision Statement

Oakville High School is committed to students achieving academic excellence through:
• An educational partnership of school, home, and community
• A rigorous curriculum
• Innovative instruction
• Active participation in co-curricular activities
• A culture of respect, tolerance, responsibility, integrity, and leadership

My experience:
There are two reflections here 1.  This is the school that hired me out of college so coming back here was like coming home.  2.  I got a chance to see a number of things, thanks to the great leadership team, that I would have never had the chance to see and be a part of.

What is it like coming home?  Well, it is great to see people you haven't worked with in 7 years.  You see that some things haven't changed with the interactions of various people within the school and district and you see how much the building and opportunities for kids have grown since you left.  Coming back and seeing people happy to see me and welcoming me back, usually with a story of "you remember when you..." always makes me smile and embarasses me a little.  I started teaching when I was 21 and left the school when I was 24, needless to say I had some growning up and maturing to do :-).

What did I get a chance to see/discuss/learn
  • We surpervised lunches (all three every day) as an adminsintrator this takes up nearly 2 hours of your day.
  • Dealt with a student who's keys were taken from him and we had to hint them down.
  • Discussed motivation for a student on the edge of failing a semester of classes.
  • Discussed a reassignment to the alternative school for a sophomore student who's attendance and grades are putting her on the path to nowhere, quick.
  • 8:30 time.  Really cool idea from Mr. Scheffler: At 8:30 any student that was absent the day before reports to the commons.  There they account for their absence (reduces skipping and increases attendance) with a parent phone call.  This time is also used for students who have discipline issues when the two overlap.  At 8:30 every day every teacher and every student know that if they are on the posted list, they come to the commons.  Great idea with minimal disruption to classes.
  • Worked with administrative team to build schedule for band, PE, science, business, and english.  Utilizing conflict matrix, course enrollment and available courses.  That was a great experience.
  • Supervise tardy sweeps at the passing periods and before school.
  • Supervised dismissal.
  • Met with a team designing the new PBTE process to be piloted next year.

All in all my spring break, although without beaches, warm weather, and relaxation, yielded great results.  I'm excited to take the opportunities to learn and apply them to my next leadership opportunity.  Special thanks to the administrators that allowed me to shadow them and the learning experiences they let me be a part of.

No comments:

Post a Comment