Friday, December 31, 2010

You say you want a resolution?

Here we stand on the precipice of another new year. Not only a new year but a brand new decade. No worries about a Y2K bug this time around. A lot of folks use this as a time to make resolutions about things they want to do, not do, or change about themselves in the new year. It is a time of promise and possibilities. For all of you that have made such resolutions I wish you the best in making them a reality.

I have always struggled with resolutions. The root of resolution is resolve. It is hard for me to tell myself I am going to resolve to do something. It seems to me the only group that should be resolving things should be constitutional conventions but I guess that's just me. I do, however, have some things in my professional life that I would like to pledge to myself (and somewhat publicly obviously) to do over the next 365 days that I believe will make me a more effective educational leader and thereby improve the educational environment for all employees, students, and stakeholders of OHS. Here are a few:

1. I pledge to read more. Reading the works of great educational minds and staying current on educational research is a great way to sharpen my own saw. I heard a story about a lumberjack competition in which two men were racing to cut down large trees. One started in feverishly cutting away while the other spent the first several minutes sharpening his saw. Although the first man got out to an early lead, the second man, the one who took the time to make sure he was cutting with a very sharp saw, soon overtook him and won the race. It is a reminder to me as a leader that I must take the time to sharpen my own saw by studying the voices of people like Sir Ken Robinson, Alfie Kohn, and countless others. We have so many great minds discussing such important aspects of educational reform these days. With a growing family making time for professional reading can be a struggle. For me it will mean a few less reruns of The Office and a bit more quality time spent with my Kindle.

2. I pledge to work with each teacher to assist them in their journey toward continual improvement. This will take many forms. It starts with having a good foundation in what is happening in each and every classroom. The administrative team in our district has made this a commitment. My goal is to do brief (10-15 minute) Walkthroughs of every classroom once every two weeks. I have set up an observation feedback system through Google Docs through which I can provide immediate feedback to each teacher as soon as the observation is complete. It also enables them to give input and thereby create an ongoing conversation between us that encourages reflection and collaboration and focuses on continual improvement.

3. I pledge to do all I can to ensure that student failure at OHS is not an option. We are currently working on a system of academic tutoring within the school day for struggling students. Students will be identified through grade reports and those students who are in need of assistance will receive it in a small group guided environment with assistance from a staff member as well as student volunteer tutors. In this environment students will receive extra focus on subjects in which they are struggling as well as the opportunity to learn and develop strong academic skills that will help them achieve success in all areas.

4. I pledge to celebrate our successes. We have a top-notch school. We have outstanding teachers, dedicated and skilled support and maintenance staffs, outstanding students, involved parents, and a supportive community. The Okoboji School District takes a backseat to no one and we need to celebrate all the great things happening in our schools. Is there room for improvement? Heck yes there is. My entire goal as a principal is to find ways to make our school and district better and I love working toward that goal every day. It is also true, however that we have so many amazing people doing so many amazing things with and for our kids. We need to celebrate those successes as we work to multiply them even more.

5. I pledge to be a voice of unity and collaboration. Every school has its "hot button" issues that seem to cause division and discord. As anyone associated with our school knows, right now athletic participation is one of ours. Numbers in many of our programs are down. This concerns us all. We all know that involvement in extracurricular activities is shown to increase positive indicators of success (school attendance, homework completion, a feeling of belonging to a team) and decrease negative indicators (apathy, drug use, disengagement with school). There are many different views on what we need to do in order to turn this recent trend in a positive direction. This is an issue we all feel passionately about. We all know the great lessons our kids learn from being a part of a team and we all want to ensure a thriving extracurricular program in all areas including music, fine arts, and sports. Sometimes our passion can turn to words and actions that can become divisive. I want to be a voice of unity and use my words and actions to bring all of our various stakeholder groups together to create and realize a common vision for the sustained success of our extracurricular programs. Together Everyone Achieves More is not just a cute acronym for TEAM, it is true and we can make it happen.

So there you have it. My professional resolutions pledges for 2011.  I ask you to hold me accountable to these ideals as we go through the year.  I look forward to December 31, 2011 when I can look back on a successful year and forward to an even brighter future for Okoboji High School. 

Happy New Year!