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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Explanation of the posts which follow

This is a blog which I established during the 2005-2006 school year. Its audience consisted of the faculty and staff of Graham School, a K-6 elementary school located in Talladega, AL.

While the blog is no longer being maintained, these posts serve as a model others may want to use as a tool to communicate with those in their buildings.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Working with you as Principal these last 9 years has been a pleasure. I wish you well as you begin the challenge, excitement, and opportunity of new leadership.

Frank Buck

When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and you are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.
—Barbara J. Winter

Monday, May 29, 2006

Thank you!

Dear Faculty & Staff,

Thank you for this beautiful pair of bookends. The figures of the boy and girl serve as a constant reminder of why it is that we chose this profession and why we work so hard at it. The books they hold remind us that if we are to raise an educated generation, we must instill in our young people a love of reading and a passion for unlocking the magic of the written word.

Frank Buck

Some of the most beautiful roses I have ever seen!

Monday, May 22, 2006


Literature is full of statistics, and the literature related to education is no exception. Weeding out the good research from the bad is a project which could consume as much time as you would like to spend. This site gives you an interesting look at how statistics can often mislead.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An interesting e-mail

One of the really rewarding experiences during my administrative career has been serving as an “editorial advisor” for the National Association of Elementary School Principals. I am completing two years of a three-year commitment. On a regular basis, the 10 editorial advisors spread across the U.S. are asked to comment on articles in NAESP’s various publications, make suggestions for future publications, and write book reviews for publication in Principal magazine. In my case, I was asked to write an article on blogging. That article appeared in the Nov/Dec issue.

One afternoon, the following e-mail message came in:

From: editorialadvisors-bounces@naesp.net on behalf of Vanessa St. Gerard [vstgerard@naesp.org]
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 12:53 PM
To: editorialadvisors@naesp.net
Subject: [Editorial Advisors] Submission for Nov/Dec Principal

Hello, everyone,

Lee Greene and I have a writing opportunity that we think both you and our
readers will enjoy. The theme for the November/December issue of Principal
is The 24-Hour Principal. In addition to our theme articles, we would like
each of our editorial advisors to submit a short piece, describing a
typical day.

Vanessa St. Gerard
Managing Editor, Publications
(703) 518-6252 (p)
(703) 548-6021 (f)

National Association of Elementary School Principals
Serving All Elementary and Middle Level Principals
1615 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314

My first thought was simply to write about THAT day, complete with its highs and lows. That is exactly what I wound up doing. The post which follows is the piece submitted to the editors. They may shorten, do some re-writing, etc., but here is the original for you to get a sneak peek.

A "Typical Day" in the Life of a Principal

During nine years as an elementary principal, the typical day is anything but typical. I come to school armed with a well-defined list of the tasks to accomplish over the course of the next week so that I can use any discretionary moment to move a step closer to accomplishing a goal. At the same time, I fully realize that one event may totally re-shape the focus for the day. Flexibility is the name of the game, and flexibility requires organization.

When I checked my e-mail on the afternoon of March 14, it included an e-mail inviting me to describe a typical day for the readers of Principal. I knew immediately the day I would choose would be the day I was living. The majority of the day had already passed, and therefore could not be contrived. Thinking back on the day to that point, it had included the elements of a “typical” day: the “checking off” of small tasks that lead to major accomplishments, opportunities for our students, unexpected annoyances, and equally unexpected good news.

This day begins at 4:30, and the first hour is spent getting me ready for school and getting two Shelties ready for their day at home. Mid-way through my 23-minute drive to work, I stop for breakfast at “DJ’s,” the Mom & Pop restaurant that is home to some of the best home-made biscuits I have ever put in my mouth.

One of our custodians normally opens the building, but he has arranged with me to be out today. After arriving at 6:30, and assuming the duties of unlocking the outside entrances and turning on a few lights, I greet a substitute custodian and give our guest a schedule of duties for the day. Handling e-mail and organizing the papers in today’s tickler file consume the remaining time before students start to arrive.

I visit the cafeteria where our very active breakfast program is in full swing. One of the teachers handling breakfast duty this week is an aspiring administer, and she is going to be an excellent principal. We visit regarding questions she has about the world of school administration.

The morning intercom announcements give me an opportunity to celebrate the good that needs to be recognized and share stories which motivate kids and present to them a picture of the kind of persons they can aspire to be. This month is both “Youth Art Month” and “Music in Our Schools Month.” Through the month, we display in our foyer works of art created by people our students know. Today, I point out that today’s painting is the work of custodian Bobby Givens. He has a work ethic that is every principal’s dream, and his artwork is truly an inspiration for everyone in our building. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, our entire student body sings the “Star-Spangled Banner” with accompaniment piped over the intercom. We have been doing this every morning during “Music in Our Schools Month.” The students do not know it yet, but each morning for the remainder of the school year, we will make the singing of patriotic songs a part of how we start our day.

The morning proves to be surprisingly free of interruptions, and I am able to move forward each of about a dozen projects. I call to my office one student who has been extremely lax in getting his work done. The brief talk is concluded with a stern statement that I will be checking with his teacher to see if there have been any more problems. Somehow, when students know the principal is going to be following up, the problem goes away.

Just when I am sure this day will be a quiet one, I learn that a first grade class has just been taken over by a swarm of termites! Who would have known that the “typical day” would include a frantic call to our pest control provider?

I accompany a student group to a performance of “America, We the People” at the Ritz Theater in downtown Talladega. While the very mention of our town makes most people think of the semi-annual NASCAR events, the staff at the Ritz never ceases to amaze me with the quality performances they bring to this town.

When I arrive back at school, I am greeted with a message that Honda has called and is donating $1,500 towards our “Young Author’s Day” project. This unexpected good news makes up for the termites! Since their arrival in northern Talladega County several years ago, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama has been a great supporter of our school.

I turn to check the latest e-mail messages and see one from NAESP with an invitation to write the account you are reading right now. I begin to jot down the major happenings to this point in the day and continue to do so for the remainder of the day.

My calendar includes viewing a webinar on the subject of using data. As I view the presentation, I use the time to sign a batch of checks and handle other miscellaneous paperwork. As the webinar ends, I take a call from Mark Rasco, a very supportive and visionary parent. He is heading up a brick project, allowing supporters of the school to purchase engraved bricks which will replace a portion of the sidewalk leading up to the school entrance. He and I discuss some of the details of the project.

The workday ends at 5:00, and tonight my wife and I enjoy a meal at the local Mexican restaurant. Tomorrow, another aspiring principal will be interviewing me for an administrative class project. I spend some time making notes to prepare for that interview while watching television and petting Shelties.

This day was a good one, and to be honest, most of them are. Our school has some of the best kids, best teachers, best parents you will find anywhere—and so does yours.

Announcements and Instructions for Closing School

  1. Instructional Assistants—We will meet Monday after school as a group. I will have your end-of-year evaluations completed. I don’t think any of you will see anything surprising. Had there been any problems, we would have talked long before now.
  2. Faculty Meeting—I don’t have anything specific, and it may turn out that we are able to cancel this meeting. This would be our last shot at clearing up anything regarding Awards Day or anything else before students leave.
  3. Luncheon—PTO to furnish lunch on Friday. Time will be approximately 11:30.
  4. End-of-the-Year Checksheet—You have probably been wondering where that is. I have been waiting on clarification on a couple of things from STI, but you will have it at the first of next week.
  5. Collecting textbooks—Go ahead and collect textbooks Monday.
  6. Boxing books—Joni has arranged for a company that purchases old books to look at our science books. We need to be sure to box them.
  7. Logins and passwords—What logins and passwords do you every day that you are going to forget over the summer? Will you remember the password to get into your computer? STI? The Xerox machine? Why not flip in your calendar to August right now while you are thinking about it and jot that information down?
  8. Cumulative Folders—You will be receiving a sticker to put on the back of the permanent (student’s address, etc.) like we did last year.
  9. Checkouts After Awards Day Ceremony—I will be placing in the boxes of homeroom teachers a “Check-In/Checkout Record.” Please take this sheet with you to the Awards Day ceremony. If a parent wants to check his/her child out after the ceremony, the parent needs to see you. Put the child’s name on the sheet. You do not need to fill in the time, date, or have the parent sign, but just the name.
  10. Bulletin Board Schedule—The schedule for next school year is posted on the Staff Room bulletin board. You may sign up at any time.
  11. Personal Leave—Any unused personal leave days will be converted to sick leave at the end of the school year. The conversion of these days will show up in the June paycheck. Certified people have the option of being paid for unused state-paid days (first 2 days). If you wish to be paid for them instead of having them converted to sick leave, there is usually a form that Mrs. Sorrell has that you would need to sign. I have not seen any information come from the central office yet, so if you would rather be paid for the days, be sure not to let next week slip by without asking about it.
  12. Alabama Educational Technology Conference—This is a “last call” for those who would like to attend AETC. This link will also take you to the information. The registration form is on page. (PDF files can take a while to fully load, so give it a couple of minutes.) We have some professional development funds available that will pay the registration for this two-day workshop. If you would like to go, simply fill out the registration form and get it to me. I will get one purchase order to cover everyone.
  13. Becoming a U.S. Citizen—As native-born Americans, we take for granted being U.S. citizens. For those coming here from foreign lands, becoming an American is not so easy. Here is a sample Naturalization Test. I wonder how well many of the people we see on street each day would do if they had to earn their citizenship.

Calendar Events

Next Week

  • Monday—Accelerated Reader Store
  • Monday—5th/6th grade softball game (1:30)
  • Monday—Meeting with instructional assistants in library (2:50)
  • Tuesday—Faculty Meeting
  • Wednesday—Awards Day practice (Kindergarten at 8:30; 6th Grade at 9:00)
  • Thursday—Last day for student
  • Thursday—Awards Day (8:30 at Harwell)
  • Thursday—Early Release
  • Friday—Last day for teachers

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Workshop Opportunities

A number of opportunities exist for summer workshops. If you will go to pdweb.alsde.edu you will see not only workshops that I have put there, but also a variety of workshops happening other places that you may sign up for.

In particular, I want to call your attention to these:

Plato Training (May 16)—All K-6 teachers will need to sign up for the appropriate session.

Alabama Educational Technology Conference (AETC)—This will be at the BJCC in Birmingham (even though it says the location is the Central Office. It wouldn't let me pick a location other than one of our buildings.) Scroll back down to the April 7 posts for additional information on how to register. Your registration will be paid through professional development funds we have available.

Midsouth Reading and Writing Conference—The April 7 post gives you additional information about signing up. Your registration will be paid through professional development funds we have available.

Technology in Motion—This is listed on pdweb as "TiM1". The training will be held at THS. I am working with Mr. Campbell to see what kind of stipend we can do for this one. Thereis no registration charge.

Multimedia Tech Camp—There is a session at THS and also the one offered on the University of Montevallo campus. Again, I will see what I can do for stipends.

Non-PDWeb workshops

Exploring Space Summer WorkshopThis link gives you information on this free summer workshop. If you are interested in registering, please see me to get the registration form. To get your professional development credit, after you attend, you would go to PDWeb and request credit the same way you did for everything you did the first half of this school year.

Harry Wong—Harry Wong will be in Huntsville on June 8. Registration is only $10. The only thing here is limited seating and limited time. I checked and there are 50 seats still available. If you would like to go, let me know today, and I can call and have them hold the seats for you. Here is the information on this event.


Vision for the End of the Year—In August, we took time in a faculty meeting for you to write a letter—a letter to yourself. You dated it May 25 and wrote it as if the year had already come to an end. Can you put your hands on it? On May 25, let's take a look at what we wrote and see how closely the vision we had in August matches the reality we created.

Bulletin Board Schedule—The schedule for next year is posted on the Staff Room bulletin board. You may go ahead and sign up for the month you would like.

Plato ID number—This number is one to joy down for future reference. It is our Plato ID number: 7002002005. When you call their tech support, they want to know that number. When you go to their support site, which is http://support.plato.com you will have to enter that number in the appropriate window to be allowed into the program.

Mr. Ellison's class—This is an excellent site for 6th graders. It was created by a middle school computer teacher in Georgia. He has done all of the work. Your students can enjoy the fruits of his labor.

PTO requests—If you have requests for PTO. The PTO meets Monday night, so be sure to get them to Cay Davis before that time.

Calendar Events

May 15-19
  • Monday—Music program practice
  • Monday—6th graders visit Ellis
  • Monday—PTO Board Meeting
  • Tuesday—Music program practice
  • Tuesday—Plato training
  • Tuesday—I will be gone last ½ day
  • Wednesday—Music program practice
  • Wednesday—BLT
  • Thursday—Groundwater Festival (4th grade)
  • Thursday—Music program practice
  • Friday—Music Program/PTO (9:00 at Harwell)
  • Friday—Deadline to have grades posted

May 22-26
  • Monday—Accelerated Reader Store
  • Monday—5th/6th grade softball game (1:30)
  • Wednesday—Awards Day practice (Kindergarten at 8:30; 6th Grade at 9:00)
  • Thursday—Last day for student
  • Thursday—Awards Day (8:30 at Harwell)
  • Thursday—Early Release
  • Friday—Last day for teachers

Monday, May 08, 2006

I am a Teacher

I Am A Teacher
By John W. Schlatter

I am a Teacher.

I was born the first moment that a question leaped from the mouth of a child.
I have been many people in many places.
I am Socrates exciting the youth of Athens to discover new ideas using questions.
I am Anne Sullivan tapping out the secrets of the universe into the outstretched hand of Helen Keller.
I am Aesop and Hans Christian Andersen revealing truth through countless stories.
I am Marva Collins fighting for every child's right to an education.
I am Mary McCleod Bethune building a great college for my people, using orange crates for desks.
And I am Bel Kaufman struggling to go "Up The Down Staircase."
I am those teachers whose names and faces have long been forgotten but whose lessons and character will always be remembered in the accomplishments of their students.

I have wept for joy at the weddings of former students, laughed with glee at the birth of their children and stood with head bowed in grief and confusion by graves dug too soon for bodies far too young.

Throughout the course of a day I have been called upon to be an actor, friend, nurse and doctor, coach, finder of lost articles, money lender, taxi driver, psychologist, substitute parent, salesman, politician and a keeper of the faith.

Despite the maps, charts, formulas, verbs, stories and books, I have really had nothing to teach, for my students really have only themselves to learn, and I know it takes the whole world to tell you who you are.

I am a paradox. I speak loudest when I listen the most. My greatest gifts are in what I am willing to appreciatively receive from my students.
Material wealth is not one of my goals, but I am a full-time treasure seeker in my quest for new opportunities for my students to use their talents and in my constant search for those talents that sometimes lie buried in self-defeat.

I am the most fortunate of all who labor.
A doctor is allowed to usher life into the world in one magic moment. I am allowed to see that life is reborn each day with new questions, ideas and friendships.

An architect knows that if he builds with care, his structure may stand for centuries. A teacher knows that if he builds with love and truth, what he builds will last forever.

I am a warrior, daily doing battle against peer pressure, negativity, fear, conformity, prejudice, ignorance and apathy. But I have great allies: Intelligence, Curiosity, Parental Support, Individuality, Creativity, Faith, Love and Laughter all rush to my banner with indomitable support.

And whom do I have to thank for this wonderful life I am so fortunate to experience, but you the public, the parents. For you have done me the great honor to entrust to me your greatest contribution to eternity, your children.

And so I have a past that is rich in memories. I have a present that is challenging, adventurous and fun because I am allowed to spend my days with the future.

I am a teacher...and I count my blessings for it every day.