Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My T-TESS-timony

Today, we trained our staff on our new appraisal system called T-TESS--The Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System--

Today was the day.

I woke up this morning and on my drive to school I prayed that God would give me strength to make today meaningful and applicable for our teachers.

The T-TESS system is drastically different from the system we've used in prior years. It will take patience, time, and lots planning to make T-TESS successful in our school.

About an hour into training we took a restroom break and I had this feeling that our teachers were overwhelmed already and stressing about the new appraisal system. I prayed in the restroom at the school, I prayed that God would take over and as Toby Mac says, "Steal My Show." I prayed that God would guide my words and calm their hearts. I prayed that we can make this work.

After lunch, I was on a slide in the presentation and I had this moment of something I didn't plan but suddenly needed to share, I told my staff this--

"I didn't sign up to be an administrator to "grade" and "judge" teachers. I signed up to become an administrator to change kids' lives. I signed because someone saw something in me that I didn't even see in myself, and it wasn't an excellent ability to "grade" teachers on PDAS or any instrument for that matter. We all got into this education business because of kids."

T-TESS is a tool to help us get better, stronger, and grow for our kids. T-TESS will stretch us, mold us, grow us and believe me we will ALL have growing pains. But we are in this together.

One Team, One Purpose.

Change Kids' Lives for the better!

Monday, November 2, 2015

"Max Capacity" Alert

The other day while sitting in a training with other administrators I had a thought that I shared out loud...

"Do you ever get so overwhelmed with everything you HAVE to do, that you just want to do nothing?"

With countless amounts of paperwork, documentation, meetings, more meetings, deadlines, phone calls, emails, to-do's, to-don't's, should do's, should not's, rescheduling meetings, oh and don't forget more meetings it's amazing we even function most days.

I am constantly going, constantly checking, constantly saying sorry for where I fell short.

We forget our main reason for why we do---what we do.

We are here for the 500 or more kids that walk into our buildings each day hungry for food and hungry for learning.

My question for those of us in leadership positions is this:

Are we putting so much on our teachers' plates they feel this "Max Capacity" Alert all the time? I know there are some things we HAVE to do, but are we really thinking about what matters most?
When our teachers feel overloaded are we giving them time to adjust and work through it?

Or are we demanding more? Questioning more? and Expecting more?
Some days we all feel this "alert" and it's a terrible feeling. It makes us question our whole career and what we do every day. It undermines what matters most, and that is the WHY?

Why do we show up each day? To educate, inspire, and LOVE our students.

When we hit "max capacity"....as leaders, teachers, business men and women, moms and dads, husbands and wives, men and women. Take the time to pause and reflect and know that worrying about the deadlines, the emails, the angry parent, the judgmental faculty member, the rude co-worker, the screaming toddler, the eye-rolling teenager, all of those things are so little compared to the big picture.

Notice the smaller details....MAKE THEM HUGE.....the hug, the smile, the nice text, the woman you helped in the parking lot who's car battery died, the mom you helped console because she was worried, the first grader you helped to have a wonderful day, the quiet time listening to music with my kids, dancing with them, giggling with them, putting a band-aide on their boo-boos, kissing them goodnight.

Don't let one small bad thing ruin the thirty good things you did today.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The 2:1 Challenge

7:30AM I get a call from a teacher that two students had a bike accident and she's called the ambulance. I ask her where she is located and I tell her I am on my way. I run across campus, down the street, and turn onto another street to come upon the scene. Both students are okay and the ambulance arrives to check them over and give them on-site care.

8:29AM I am running once again across campus to do the morning announcements.

8:30AM Announcements---It's go time! Time to have fun and start the day with a laugh. Today I'm taste-testing the popcorn for the popcorn fundraiser on campus!

8:45AM Head to the MakerSpace to talk with 3rd grade PLC.

9:20AM Discuss PTO events with my PTO president.

9:50AM Staff member comes to me about concerns they have.

10:00AM Meet at the high school to discuss an upcoming EdCamp we are planning in our district.

11:30AM Back On Campus--Have to pull support staff to work a student that is not in control.

12:00PM Talk with a teacher about the concerns she has for a struggling student.
Cover in lunch duty--Pull staff in to help cover for the 4th grade lunch schedule change.

1:00PM Morris Brothers are here! Let's sing and dance and learn how to be Super Hero Friends! Eat my sandwich and wheat thins while watching the show.

3:00PM Morris Brothers complete their final show!

3:05PM Called into a class for a student that is jumping off tables at other students.

3:10PM Called student's parents

3:18PM Get student on the bus

3:25PM Parent Pick Up duty--time to get 515 students home safe.

3:45PM Make sure all students are picked up on time.

3:45-4:20PM Listen, help, cry with, or console a teacher that is worried about her students.

Moms, Dads, grandmothers, grandparents, custodial parents, foster parents---This is a typical day in a public school, we do this EVERY single day. This is actually a slow day. Thank goodness I am not listing a busy day because I would have way too many expletives and four letter words...and that is not coming from the adults but rather the students.

While the days seem chaotic and crazy, it's what we do every day as school leaders. The days are long but the weeks fly by and before you know it another school year has passed.

I have to remember that some days are filled with more negativity than others. If we focus on the people that drain the energy out of us we will end up stressed, complaining, and burned out. They will bring us down. As leaders, when we focus on the things out of our control we end up out of control.

Sometimes we need to lay it down, make kid-based decisions no matter what, and not worry about the naysayers or the haters. As leaders we have to have faith that if we are working hard and doing right by our students and faculty then we have done the best we can.

My challenge to you as school leaders is when we are faced with a negative comment or something bad this week, to pay it forward times 2 with complementing someone, showing appreciation, or writing a thank you letter, email, or text.

The 2:1 challenge! Share the challenge and over-power the negative Nelly's this week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We Can't Fight All Their Battles

The underlying theme of most my days are filled with TEACHERS who care about every single kid in their classes.

Every. Single. Kid.

As a school we assemble, feed, teach, feed, teach, disassemble 500+ children every day. If that's not a miracle in itself I don't know what is.

We care about your children and spend more time with your children than we do our own children most days. We think about them when we aren't in school, ways we can help them, ways we can make them feel success.

The media, however, paints a different picture of schools. This places fear and doubt in our hearts. We start to question our kids and what might happen to them.

I am a parent myself, it pains me when my own child comes home unhappy about the day. But, I also realize...I CAN'T FIX HER PROBLEMS. I can't go to the school and make other students play with her, or make other students say the right thing, or keep her from FAILING.

I think many parents in our generation think if our kids can go through life not feeling pain, rejection, failure, or heartache they will somehow be better than us?

Here is what I know:

I know that every time I was rejected or turned down, it lit a fire within me to try harder and be better.

When someone has made me feel inferior or ignorant, my love of learning drives me to learn more.

When I gave up on something, I started something new.

When someone tells me I'm crazy for what I do, I agree that I probably am.

I didn't have parents that researched parenting techniques on the internet. My parents were high school sweethearts with high school educations. They didn't care about my grades, if I got an ice cream, if I got a sticker, or if I made a hundred. When I got out of the car complaining that I didn't want to go to school my mom would say, "But you're so good at it!" They didn't march into the school and demand another teacher because I didn't want to go to school. Why do we feel that one bad day warrants our child a new teacher? We all have days we don't want to go to work, it doesn't mean we quit our jobs.

If we don't let our kids fail, stumble, color outside the lines, be late for class, forget a project, then what type of grown humans are we creating?

I can see it now----A 40 year old woman, has to call her mom because she forgot to do her reports for work, so her mom rushes up to turn in the work for her so she can get a paycheck?-----


I am not a perfect parent, I am far from that. I am a mistake-making, sorry-saying, well-that-back-fired-in-our-internet-researched-technique-to-get-rid-of-the-pacifier faces!

But, if there is one thing my husband and I agree on is that our children will become their own person. They will do their own projects, they will say the wrong things, they will get carried out of Walmart crying because I am not buying them a baby doll every time we go shopping. They will fail a paper and they will do their own work.

AND I will be there to PARENT, not to be a 5 year-old again.

My hope is that our parents will have an open heart to the importance of mistake-making, failure, and building GRIT in our future leaders and society.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Grades on GRIT!

I shared this article with my staff this morning!

Everyone please take the time to read this article, I'd love to hear your feedback or comments.

"When Success Leads to Failure" by JESSICA LAHEY

Jessica Hanson
Sent from my iPhone

The feedback from my staff was amazing!

Here is the chain:
Good Morning!
As I read this article I pictured various students and their situations/trials/tribulations in my head. From the struggling students, to the highly intelligent student, this IS a problem. We WANT the students to take risks, and to love the learning! I will keep this in my mind as this year progresses! (Naturally, this doesn't stop with young children...adults, too!). Thank you!

Julie-4th Grade Lead Teacher @WalnutCreekAISD

My response:

I totally agree with you. As a kid, I remember my parents not worrying about my grades because they would say, “As long as you try hard you will be just fine.” {BUT, socially I wanted to be the kid that did well and made straight A’s}

There is so much POWER in a grade, but what is it really?

Did you get it right?
Kids say, “YAY”….and then look around to compare themselves to others!

Did you get it wrong?
Kids hide their answer, scribble it out, and their internal dialogue says, “The smart kids always get it right, I’m stupid.”

Why does society tell us we are either born smart or dumb? That in itself is dumb!! Some of my best problem solvers were my special needs students when I taught special education. Why? Because they solve problems, they don’t give up....unless someone has given up on them.

I keep thinking about this...what if part of the “grade” is the process? For example….in math “What if kids were given a grade not for answers correct on word problems, but given grades for showing the process….Can you imagine?

Student “Mrs. _______, did I get it right?”

Teacher “I’m not looking for the right answer, I’m looking for your problem solving method.”

This changes my perspective on so many levels. We want our kids to think, problem solve, and HAVE GRIT! Don’t give up! Why not give them grades on GRIT!?!?!!

-Jessica Hanson Principal/Lead Learner @WalnutCreekAISD @jessahanson


I like the article. I think as teachers we need to allow and encourage students to try new things even when they are outside their and our comfort level. I think we need to push them a bit above their level everyday. As the article says, students are still learning even if they fail. They can apply what worked or didn't work to future tasks. One of the best compliments I was given last year was from a grandmother. She told me her grandson loved coming to school for the first time in his life. I like to think my room is a safe place for students to learn and fail.

Having said this, I am very thankful I teach second grade where the students are not taking a test that judges the student and me.

Tammy-2nd Grade Teacher @WalnutCreekAISD


I found this article very interesting. I think that in today's society, when we are so worried about test scores, we are taking away the children's love for learning. Children can feel the stress we have over their benchmark/test scores and they react to that. And it's so easy to get caught up in teaching to the test but we have to step back and remember that they are just kids. I think teachers can have a huge impact on a child's love of learning. I can recall countless classes from elementary to college where a teacher made me fall in love with learning. The teachers did that by having a passion for what and who they were teaching. I learned more from teachers who I knew cared about me and showed an interest in me. Or from teachers who I could tell truly loved and enjoyed what they were teaching. Their passion for what they taught was contagious. You were having fun and learning before you even realized what was happening. I'll give a shout out to Coach Boenisch here. I was in his science class for both years of jr high and I can recall so many things I learned from him. And it's been over 10 years ago! But he had a passion for what he taught and made it fun. So I believe that we are creating students who want the achievements and do not love learning. But I also believe we can change it by showing our students the passion we have for them and their learning. We need to let students know it's not always about the big achievements but who they are as a person. I want to watch my students grow in character. (And also grow in knowledge) We need to remember that we are helping shape little people and our impact can be bigger than we may ever know.

Rochelle Kaempf-4th Grade Teacher-Rookie Teacher of the Year 2015 @WalnutCreekAISD


Wow!!! So inspiring and so true!!! This is an effect of society on parenting. I totally agree!!! Children should be pushed BUT they have to be allowed to make their own mistakes and learn from their own struggles.

Cindy Humphries-1st Grade Teacher @WalnutCreekAISD

I will post more comments as I receive them!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Rock Assignment

I just took this picture of my communication notebooks for the upcoming school year. I use a notebook for each month and take it everywhere, you never know when you might get a phone call, text message, or find a post-it left for you somewhere. I use the re-positional glue (recommended by my colleague Heidi Nelson--Principal at Silver Creek Elementary) to glue those post-its, smaller notes, or even notes I may have taken on other pieces of paper into my monthly notebook. I find it is the only way to keep a log of those countless strands of communication each day. I try to date and time stamp each page in order to have a consistent log of information.

In the picture I noticed my rock! This was my rock from an activity I did with my staff and each time I look at it I am reminded of what that rock means. This assignment could apply to any organization!

Here is The Rock Assignment:

What you will need:

-Rocks! You can collect them or go buy them at Hobby Lobby, Dollar Tree, Home Depot. They can range in size, texture, or shape.

The night before the assignment email your staff and inform them they have a special assignment the next day. Each staff member will need to come by and see me to get the assignment in the hall before they start their day.

I let them choose a rock, then I informed them they will have to teach with, eat lunch with, go to recess with, go to planning with, even go to the restroom with their ROCK! They CANNOT let if off of their body!

Check on people throughout the day and see if they are carrying their rocks.

Here is copy of the email I sent to my staff members at the end of the day:

Subject Line: THE ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Did you make it through the day with your rock?

Was it annoying at times?

Did you want to give up?

Did you think about it even though you had a job to do?

Did you think, "If I didn't have to carry this rock around I could get so much more done?"

Did you think, "It's this silly rock that's keeping me from my best?"

Did you want to throw the rock?
To leave it somewhere? To "accidentally" lose it?

The ROCK is a metaphor for the "ROCKS" we all carry to work and more specifically the "ROCKS" our students bring to school.

You can't see them but they are there:

Smaller to larger--

I went to bed late because I was at the hospital with a sick sibling.

Mom and dad may have had a huge fight this morning before school.

Dad left mom last night.

I'm sleeping on the couch at my mom's friends house because we couldn't pay rent.

I haven't eaten a meal since school on Friday.

Mom was taken to jail last night.

I haven't seen my parents in 6 months.

They are there for us too:

Our own children may be sick or in emotional pain.

We may have had a fight with a family member.

Financial issues.

Health issues.

Family issues.

We ALL carry "rocks" with us every single day. It's good to remember that some of our rocks are easier to carry and we can still go about our day and get some things done.

Others rocks are bigger...much bigger. Some of our students and co-workers may need help carrying the rock or simply understanding that it will take a little longer to get to the goal.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Wizard of Ed

So just yesterday my three girls asked to watch the Wizard of Oz. Of course I said yes in excitement that I would finally get a break from the typical, Sofia the First, Jessie, and Bubble Guppies, and finally get to watch a classic!

A few minutes in, I started getting this crazy correlation that life, business, and education is a whole heck of a lot like the Wizard of Oz.

Quickly we realize that we aren't in Kansas anymore and today's learner is not the learner from Kansas, but rather, the learner of today. A child who has grown up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and countless other social medias...in an amazingly busy world of color, video, and media. They haven't known life without it.

So why are we teaching and learning like we are still in Kansas? In the black and white, pen to paper, homework everyday, Friday spelling, grades every week, monotonous, routine,----black and white.

First, we have to make a "Glenda Decision"

She asks Dorothy, "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"
Dorothy replies, "I am not a witch at all."
Glenda still pushes the issue, "The munchkins want to know are you a good witch or a bad witch?"

This makes me think of our students and parents on the first day of class...Is she a good witch (teacher)? or a bad witch (teacher)? Interesting, are we good-witch leaders? or bad-witch leaders?

I think Glenda is on to something...we have to decide what team we are on in our schools, businesses, and organizations. What's best for our kids, or what's best for adults?

The answer should be easy.

Then we have to decide the role we play.

A Cowardly Lion might say:

"I'm afraid to try to new things? I am so scared I will fail? Oh, but we can't change it? I'm stressed that this will upset my team? What if I stand out and people get mad at me? Will my mistakes reflect poorly on me? Will my principal, boss, superintendent be mad at me? I'm afraid I should just retire"

A Tin Man might say:

"This will never work. Oh ya, you're just the latest buzz word...I've been here through 5 principals, leaders, bosses, managers...we will see if this lasts. I've been doing this for 25 years and it's worked. In years past we've always done it this way. If they keep making all these changes I will just retire"

A Scarecrow might say:

"Why do I need to go to this professional development training? I went to college for 5 years. I don't know how to do all that technology stuff, I'm just not techy. Oh, we have to do something creative, I'm just not creative, can (Insert name here) do all that cutesy, artsy, creative stuff for us? Does anyone know who I contact to check and see how many more years until I retire?"

Or are you a Dorothy? A Dorothy might say:

"Let's do this together guys. Look I will show you the way. I know it's gonna be tough and we might have bumps along the yellow brick road, but we will get there. We can do this!"

The beauty in the Wizard of Oz is that all of the characters are hoping the Wizard will grant them their needs. A heart, bravery, brains, and a home.

Notice, how Dorothy says, if the "Wizard is a wizard who will serve."

As leaders of anything it is our job to serve. We can't sit back and call all the shots from behind the smoke screen. We have to serve, learn, help, and guide our lions, scarecrows, tin mans, and Dorothy's.

So my final question...As "Somewhere over the Rainbow" plays in the background.

Will you be able to find your way home? Will you decide you aren't going to teach in Kansas anymore? Will you find your inner Dorothy and get your team moving towards the Emerald City? Leaders, will you be like the Wizard and decide to serve?