Tag Archives: Josh Stumpenhorst

Celebrating creative superheroes

 The figures above were created by Mark, my very own 5th grade superhero, 
and evolved into puppets.

With a 5th grader, two 3rd graders, & a 1st grader all under my roof, I have enjoyed (understatement) seeing how my own children’s learning has developed within and beyond the walls of their schools. Further, from an academic programming standpoint, two of my daughters are English Language Learners, having joined our family three years ago from Ethiopia. Three of my children have participated in reading intervention, two in speech and language support, and one in academically talented services. As an educator and a mom, I understand how varied the needs of children can be and how much of a challenge it can be to both enrich and support.

I also know the incredible gift of seeing creative energy unfold in my own children aside from any of the ways we might describe their academic path; I believe all children have this within. In recent weeks, I read and commented on Day 5: Dreaming About Education by@stumpteacher #12DOD onBrett Clark‘s blog. Josh Stumpenhorst‘spost mentioned engaging children at school at the level they are engaged at home and the need for parents and teachers to come together, among many other points you I recommend you take time to read and consider. I considered these words as a mom rather than simply a school principal and shared this:

So many items here that I agree with as an educator and a mom, Josh. Wondering if I could do better as a mom to share out the engaged learning that happens in my home. Recently our basement has been transformed into ‘Hogwarts’ where my kids and their cousins created a class to teach one another. My son and his friends also took sidewalk chalk to the unfinished basement floor a different day to draw bases for their Star Wars ships as they mapped out what my son calls a figure battle. How do we share what happens unprompted in our homes with a larger community to demonstrate what can happen? I know as an educator, I’ve considered and reconsidered a lot from observing this in my own home coupled with my conversations with educator/parents like you.

So as educators and parents, how DO we harness this creative energy? How do we make that super power a way of being and not just a fleeting moment when they are very young? How do we know that the spirit we see in kindergarten can continue to shape them as learners beyond? While this can indeed lead into some complex conversations from homework to developmentally appropriate practice and beyond, start by thinking what you can do in your role whether it be parent, teacher, administrator, or teacher of teachers to promote and value student creativity; it is probably more than you realize.

I think back to visiting a class the last week before winter break that was being led by a substitute teacher. As the children prepared to color seals, the substitute talked about what color seals should be and what colors or patterns they are simply not. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched twenty-four little kindergarten heads shake back and forth in disagreement. One girl stated, “It is okay for my seal to have stripes if I want. My teacher said.”

Let’s pledge to encourage that creativity where we can, celebrate it when we see it, and be outspoken about “permission”. If you feel the same and are a teacher, do your students know you’re inspired by their creativity and want them to use that gift? If you’re an administrator and you agree, do your teachers know where you stand? Do they know creative sometimes trumps “right”? And back to the initial question I posed to Josh, how do we showcase that creativity so that its difference-making power shines through?

This post was originally written for Kinderchat, as part of NaPoBloMo, and published there this 3rd day of January.

Out of my office

My use of Twitter throughout my day has indeed increased, but Sunday afternoon I learned I still have progress to make trying to listen to a fantastic Keynote and Tweet at the same time. RT was indeed my friend as I listened and connected with the words of Chris Lehmann at the ISTE Leadership Forum (#ISTELF12) in Indianapolis. Steven W. Anderson wrote a thoughtful reflection of Lehman’s words; I appreciated reading this as I continue to think through my experience and what it means for me and for my school and district. A couple of Lehmann’s points emphasized sharing ideas and modeling learning as leaders, which I wrote about yesterday.

Stressing that technology should not isolate us, Lehmann talked about technology allowing him to do his work in places outside of his office. A seemingly simple idea really resonated with me as I thought back to countless times where I’ve said, “I need to do (fill in the blank) really quick, and then I would like to get out in the building.” More often than not ‘really quick’ takes more time than I thought or something else arises, and I’ve lost valuable time with my students and staff during the school day. And I don’t feel good about that at all. So Wednesday when I returned to school and found a folder full of items needing my signature, I took that folder and my computer and headed to one of our flexible learning spaces to take care of those tasks that I really didn’t need to do in isolation. In a matter of 20 minutes, I accomplished the work I needed to and interacted with 4 classrooms of students and multiple staff members; that couldn’t have happened in my office. As I write parts of this, I’m in a different part of my school where I can see a parent volunteer with a small group and two instructional assistants supporting literacy groups.

Beyond the scope of that keynote, there has been considerable dialogue on Twitter about #NoOfficeDay ranging from thoughts that it is important to spend time with students and teachers to concerns that it implies that principals generally DO spend their time in their office. You can read more about that here. Additionally, the role and practice of principals has also been widely discussed and debated in social media, like here and here in the blog of teacher Josh Stumpenhorst. All of this has has prompted much thought over time as I’m in my second year as a building principal. I think back to my time as a junior high Assistant Principal when my administrative team scheduled ‘Instructional Time’ where we blocked out hours during the week where our goal was to be involved in classrooms rather than in the office. While this was essentially ‘no office’ time, we framed it as instructional time to put the focus on what we were doing rather than what we were avoiding. Josh’s posts also bring out the perceptions that exist about our work as building leaders. Taking my work out into the building this week beyond arrival/dismissal, birthday sticker deliveries, classroom visits or teacher observations has prompted some looks and some questions, resulting in some thoughtful conversations with staff. As I seek to enrich my school community and move us forward, I need to be with my students and staff and ‘care for’ them as Chris Lehmann said. I see many of my principal counterparts in my PLN seeking ways to do the same.

How do you engage with your students and staff during the school day? What actions positively impacted how your role is perceived in your school? How are you still challenged in this regard?

Getting started…finally!

Over the course of the past year, I’ve come to really value Twitter and the Professional Learning Network I’m developing through my interactions there. Honestly, I started by following educational organizations or publications and not really tweeting at all. It gave me a quick way to stay informed about what was happening as journals from those same organizations piled up on my desk, often unread. Eventually, I began to retweet occasionally and started making connections with some other educators, thanks in part to some conversations with @stumpteacher and @j_bednar, who I am fortunate to know in real life, and interaction with @joe_mazza through #ptchat.  With those connections come amazing resources, additional sets of eyes and ears, and support for the important work we all do for kids.

I also began reading more blogs. While I had blogged about my family’s adoption journey, I had never blogged in a professional light. Looking back, though, the adoption blog was a way to share with progress with our extended family and friends, as well as other families who were also in the adoption process. It only makes sense to that this would serve us well in other areas of our lives. So, I’d read education blogs and it would prompt me to comment or set up a blog and write a post…but I didn’t. I wanted to wait until I had time, like a day off or a class finished, or I thought something through a little more. Over spring break, my family took an awesome vacation to Disney World, and I unplugged from my school work and my doctoral work (well, for the most part) (but not from ESPN because that was when the Tebow trade was going down). On that trip, I was really energized despite the busy, busy days! As we traveled home, I wrote a list of about 20 lessons from Disney that applied to my work and I planned to write about them on. That was in March…still haven’t written. Today, though, I encountered this post on why sharing matters from another educator, @gcouros, whose candor and reflection I’ve come to value greatly (not to mention quality You Tube video sharing). And I decided today was the day I would get started and follow through (…despite, or maybe partly because of, the two chapters of stats homework waiting for me tonight!).

I’ve always enjoyed infusing technology into my work and my personal life, and I have been spreading the Twitter PLN goodness to my principal colleagues, doctoral cohort members, and my building staff. I have seen directly how my students at my school can benefit from this, too; for example, I connected two of my kindergarten classes in Illinois with kindergarten classes in Port McNeill, British Columbia, Canada for some amazing, authentic learning about where each group of students is from and some hands-on science sharing about our chicks and their salmon. I know that if I’m going to continue to develop as a leader and develop leaders and move my school forward, contributing and sharing is every bit as important as the information that is shared WITH me…and what others have shared has undoubtedly made a difference to me and helped me do that for others.

So here I am… And those Disney ideas are still rolling around in my head; so are some tweets and posts I’ve seen about the how we can promote creativity and curiosity in students given the demands and accountability placed on us, the value of doctoral programs, and the need for quality administrators and empowered teacher leaders. Now I’ve made myself a nice little place to put them!