Thursday, May 14, 2009

End of year musings

A year ago yesterday, I was introduced to the Taylor staff and parents for the first time. I commented to my wife that I was impressed by the warmth of the welcome and I expressed a hope that I would not disappoint them. For whatever reason, it seemed to me at the time that expectations were sky-high and my biggest fear was that I could not meet those expectations.

A year later, it’s safe to say that I probably exceeded expectations for some folks and did not measure up to the expectations of others. That’s to be expected (no pun intended). I will say this: I have absolutely loved my first year as your principal and am as thrilled to be the principal of Taylor Middle School today as I was on May 12, 2008. In reflecting on the past 183 days of school, I have learned (and occasionally relearned):
• Parents, kids, and teachers expect the principal to consistent and fair at all times, but I also learned
• One size does not fit all kids, teachers, parents, or anything else that comes along.
• Math, reading, science, and social studies are important subjects that every student should master, but,
• Visual art, live music, and poetic expression make life beautiful and meaningful and cannot be ignored in building a middle school curriculum
• Kids are strong, bright, and eager to learn
• Except when they aren’t. And this is where we as a school community need to pull together to help those students who can’t or won’t succeed find a way to succeed.
• Middle school parents want to be involved in the life of the school and that we have a solemn responsibility to involve them.
Teams achieve success because key players make plays. I want to conclude this BPM by acknowledging some key players on our team for their contribution: Pam is the best assistant principal I have ever worked with; Officer Steve is a great guy and a heck of a cop; Suzanne, Ellen, and Angela are as good an office staff as exists in APS; Lindsay is a superlative instructional coach who almost single-handedly made data dialogues work; Christy is a courageous and courteous IC chair; Peter and his crew (Jose, Albert, Patty, and Anna) do an outstanding job of keeping the school and grounds beautiful; Michele, Evelyn, and Melissa run a safe, supportive, and efficient health suite. Joellen and Theresa are exceptional teacher coaches; Helen helped us focus on student success; Vince and Peggy kept our network running; our teaching staff is second to none and their contributions to our school’s success were heroic; our educational assistants did the really heavy lifting day in and day out and we owe you a lot – thanks! And we can’t forget our dedicated cafeteria staff that makes the best bread in town, thanks. The staff of Child Find and Audiology has been a great support. Lastly, I want to thank you, the parents, for your help and support this year: Tanya, Cheryl, Jean, Mariette, Dennis, Kathy, Jason, Tiana, Barbara, Mary Ann, Jennifer, Sarah, Monica, Karen, Becky, Rez, Sef, George, Nancy, Nora, Tom, Carmen, Renee, Heather and the many other parents who work tirelessly to make Taylor a great school. I appreciate you all and thank you for your service. I look forward to continuing our partnership next year and beyond.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great moms!

Last week I wrote about three great teachers who shaped my life and contributed to the person I am today. This week during Teacher Appreciation Week, I was grateful to our dedicated PTO for recognizing our great teachers at the Teacher Day luncheon. I also want to thank the kind and caring staff of our Audiology and Child Find Departments for spoiling us with a variety of chocolate delights on Monday. That being said, I am confident that our teaching staff felt honored and appreciated. Thank you to all who participated in honoring our teachers.

This week, I want to share with you about three other profound teachers who shaped my life but not one of them had a teaching degree. Not one was a licensed teacher. Not one graduated from a college of education. Yet every one was or is a superb teacher. I am talking about three special mothers and on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to share with you how these ladies contributed to my success as an adult.

I was fortunate to be born into a family which valued education – often, perhaps usually, more than I did. My paternal grandmother graduated from Willamette University in the years preceding the Great Depression. Her father was the superintendent of the Oregon School for Boys (a reform school) and he doubtlessly passed on to my grandmother the importance of a college education. She married my grandfather (an English teacher) and they spent the early 1930’s teaching English in CCC and WPA camps in Idaho and Montana. My grandmother was a strict grammarian who delighted in correcting my errant subject/verb agreement, dangling participles and split infinitives. She was relentless in her search for grammatical errors, a nasty habit I am afraid I acquired. She was however a delightfully witty and erudite gal who taught me that words were fun (when used properly of course) and I owe her a great deal.

The second woman who shaped my life was my own dear mother. She was born to good Danish stock in the Salinas Valley of California in the early years of the Depression. Mom was by all accounts a straight A student who parlayed these good grades into a scholarship to Stanford where she met my dad. I can’t begin to describe the many things she taught me but the thing that stands out is the importance of family. Confidentially, I was not the best of students in high school and I am certain that poor mother wondered why I didn’t inherit her academic scholarship genes. I muddled through high school graduating in the top 50% but she never called me a slacker, and was always there to tell me and show me how much she loved me. She passed away in 1986 and I honor her on this Mother’s Day. I miss you mom!

The third woman I am related to by marriage. She has the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, and the charity of Mother Teresa. She has taught me that people are more important than things and that faith, hope, and love are the true virtues to strive for (or is “for which to be strived”?). My dear wife Lynn has been my best teacher and best friend. I particularly honor her this Mother’s Day. Not everyone has been as blessed as I have been to have been taught by such strong, noble women who loved me unconditionally. But I do believe most of us have someone in our lives worthy of honor and recognition on this Mother’s Day. I especially want to thank all of the Taylor moms, grandmas, aunts, and motherly figures who support our kids and school. Thanks also go out to all the moms who work at Taylor and make it a caring, compassionate place. I hope you all have a blessed Mom’s Day!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Great teachers in my life

Have you ever had a great teacher? I have had numerous great teachers in my life. The first one was my tough-as-nails eighth grade teacher. Her name Miss Grace Klampe (not Ms, Miss thank you very much). She was as stern as a dried prune and as demanding as a drill sergeant but she could TEACH. She demanded respect and got it. She actually had to use the ruler across the knuckles for yours truly on one occasion when I was less than stellar in my behavior. But to this day I respect her. She wasn’t warm and fuzzy but she taught me important lessons like personal responsibility and being accountable for my actions.

The next great teacher was my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Harmon. She was young, sweet, and beautiful – the antithesis of Miss Klampe – but she was also smart and literate and engaging. Where Miss Klampe made learning a duty to be honored, Mrs. Harmon made learning a journey of discovery to be relished. Of course I fell hopelessly in love with her in the way that only a 13 year old teenager can. Despite my boyhood crush, she did instill in me a love for English and it occurs to me that she may have influenced my decision to become an English teacher.

My final great teacher was my major professor and advisor in the graduate program for educational leadership – Dr. Ernest Noack. Ernie was Princeton-smart and Montessori-kind. He anchored many of his leadership courses around the work of Stephen Covey and he taught us that it is core principles that guide us in life. And like all the great teachers, he walked the talk. He made us feel like we could succeed as school leaders by his words spoken and written on the countless essays and projects we were expected to write. Never did he utter a discouraging word. Like all the great teachers in my life, he instilled confidence. There were many more influential teachers including my parents but that’s next week’s topic. I honor these great teachers because next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. We have great teachers here at Taylor and we will honor them at our PTO Appreciation Luncheon on Tuesday May 5. I invite you to take time this week and recognize the teachers who have positively influenced you and your children- especially those here at Taylor. Forget the old saying that those who can't do teach. I say, those who can teach others to do.