Beyond the crisis…

Crisis, Hope

This past week, our SkyView family experienced a crisis in our community. When tragedy strikes close to home, it often leaves us feeling angry, confused, sad, depressed, uncertain, scared, or even ambivalent. But such experiences also force us to reach out to others–either because we need their support or because we are able to offer some support.

Fortunately, SkyView is a community that is characterized by the selfless support of its members. I could not be more proud of the counselors, teachers, and students we have! I was beyond impressed by the incredible ability of our family to come together and support each other through our crisis.

As we move beyond the crisis and look ahead these next weeks and months, I encourage us all to take comfort (and pride) in the reality that we are STRONG and that together, we can tackle anything that comes our way.

Cheers!

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Welcome Back!

calvin-hobbes-school-homework

Welcome back! I hope that your summer was great and that you don’t find it nearly as difficult as Calvin to talk about all of the great things you did these past few months. (I also hope that you found much more to do than just watch TV.)

As we embark on another journey together this school year, I am trying to decide how to keep this initial post fairly brief and what pertinent information needs to be shared. So I’m going to be concise and shoot straight. Here it is:

  1. I am so very excited about my second year as principal! I get to work with an incredible staff, and we have such an amazing student body. I can’t wait to see what great things lie ahead this year!
  2. I have been asked if I am still working on my doctorate. Yes. This semester we are working to dial in our research proposals and to seek partners (districts/schools) who are interested in our work. I am still planning to work toward promoting and protecting the wellbeing of teachers, thus decreasing teacher attrition rates. I am happy to chat about my research interest anytime – don’t hesitate to ask.
  3. Mr. Swanson tells me that dress code has been pretty great so far. Thank you for that! Keep up the good work!
  4. Let’s talk about email again. Honestly, I’m buried. …much worse than anytime last year. Don’t get me wrong – it’s okay to email. But please keep it as brief as possible. Every minute that I spend reading and returning emails is one less minute that I get to spend working to improve the quality of instruction at SkyView. There is a time and a place and a need for email, but please try to keep it as minimal as possible. And along those lines…
  5. Meetings. If you need to meet with me, we can certainly make that happen. Please understand that when I have 30 minutes available to meet (maybe even only 15), that might sound stingy, but it’s often the best that I can do. Like with email: every minute spent in a meeting, is a minute that I am not working with teachers or strolling through the halls chatting with students and learning about their lives, needs, and passions. Also, before meeting with me please be sure to go to the teacher first. As a former teacher, that is the only way I would ever want it. In fact, since this is high school, please send your student to the teacher first – they can handle it.
  6. I continue to observe that SkyView students are amazing for so many reasons. Their initiative, dedication, persistence are a testament to our amazing families and the reason that SkyView is a great place to work and learn.
  7. Back to School night is Wed, Sept 6 at 6:00pm. Meet your student’s teachers and spend an hour walking through their schedule. We hope to see you then!

Seriously: welcome back! Let’s make it a great school year.

Cheers!

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My 1st year as HS Principal–10 things that I’ve learned

learning

10. Being a principal is more challenging than I expected. I knew it was going to be challenging (and at times difficult), but the learning curve is much steeper than I anticipated. This is not a bad thing–in fact, in my case this is a very good thing. I like to push myself as hard as possible and enjoy being challenged and stretched to my limits.

9. I don’t like email anymore. Remember when you were a kid how it felt to see the mailman deliver your mail? You couldn’t wait to take it out of the box and see what was there. I used to sort of feel that way about email. That little AOL “You’ve got mail!” jingle would make me smile. I looked forward to the interesting things that I might find each day. I seriously enjoyed email as a form of communication. I would work to craft carefully-written messages to others, using complete sentences and my best writing techniques, then I’d sit back and admire the beautiful piece of communication I’d crafted. I couldn’t understand why others would always send such short, simple emails in response. They wouldn’t even include a salutation or signature. Well, I get it now. I have actually come to fear opening my email and discovering how many new messages await me. I feel terrible about having to sort through them all so very quickly and for having to write short responses, but I’ve also learned how very critical it is to time-manage this aspect of my job. In fact, I’m still learning how to manage that aspect of being a principal…

8. The law classes that I had in my principal license program only helped a little. When it comes to the legal aspects of being a principal, there is only so much you can prepare for. 90% of the time, it’s trial by fire. All the studying in the world still can’t prepare you for the stuff you are going to experience in the principal’s office.

7. I am much more patient at 39 than I was 10 years ago (even 5 years ago). This has served me well in two ways. First, I have been much more deliberative about change and pursuing a vision for the future. In the past, I pursued vision like a thoroughbred race horse. But I have learned to slow down a bit and appreciate the journey. Second, I am able to manage conflict much better than I used to. I have been able to de-escalate some very intense situations this year and help others feel better. I didn’t always possess the patience to do that. Yay for me!

However…

6. I need to do a better job of compartmentalizing things. So many things pop up during the day that I sometimes allow events to impact each other. It doesn’t happen often, but it still has happened more times than I’d like to admit: I’ve allowed a crisis or negative event to impact my interactions with others. I need to compartmentalize these things better and not allow one experience to impact another. Interruptions and disruptions are part of being a principal. I need to accept it and embrace it.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Change takes time. I know it…but I still want to move quickly. I’ve learned that in schools, some changes can happen quickly, but most take time. It is only by taking slow, deliberate, patient steps that the organization is able to move forward effectively.

4. I couldn’t have made it this year without the incredible supports around me. My two mentors, my coach, and my colleagues throughout the area have been incredibly helpful. And several individuals here at SkyView have been amazing as sounding boards, confidants, and a source of encouragement (you know who you are). My thoroughbred mentality makes me want to run alone at times, but I’ve learned to rely on and trust the support of others.

Speaking of which…

3. Behind every successful man is an incredible woman. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not learning this just now. I’ve always known that my wife is pretty darn great–that’s why I love her and married her. But in one of the toughest years of our marriage, as I began a new journey as principal and also started working on my doctorate, she took it to a whole new level. She is really unbelievable! In addition to having an incredibly successful year as a teacher (she is one of the few teachers in her district to get the “Innovative” rating and was observed several times by district personnel, then invited by the district to provide professional development for other teachers), she has also been a steady support and constant source of encouragement for me. Wow–she is amazing!

2. I miss teaching. I knew I would, but I just didn’t realize how much I’d really miss it. There is something incredibly special and indescribably rewarding about being able to touch the lives of students each and every day. I miss that direct, minute-by-minute connection. I miss the routine of greeting each student at the door, chit-chatting through “Good Things!” to start class, coaching students through math on their whiteboards, passing out mints at the start of each assessment, writing a dozen advisement passes for students each day, and grading papers on Sunday afternoon. I truly miss it.

But…

1. I LOVE MY NEW JOB! I always knew that I would enjoy being a principal, but I’ve truly learned that this job is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. I love working with the students and engaging in their lives. I love working with my incredible staff and watching them do amazing things! I love the opportunities to problem-solve, cast a vision for the future, and create a greater school each and every day. I’m already looking forward to next year and the great things that await us!

Now go have a wonderful summer break! Enjoy the downtime, get refreshed, do some hiking, go camping, visit Rocky Mountain National Park, … Just have a great couple of months off. We’ll see you again in August.

Cheers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 4 of 4

teacher appreciation heart

Teacher Appreciation week is next Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

So last week I left us wondering: what creates the kind of teacher stress that compromises wellbeing and leads to high attrition rates? The truth is, there are a plethora of factors that contribute to the issue and there are numerous ways that we might classify and evaluate these factors. But one of the themes that emerges is the lack of appreciation that teachers feel. That is an oversimplification, of course, but a real problem none-the-less. For the sake of this series and this particular post, I am going to break this down to two types of appreciation.

The first type of appreciation relates primarily to “me” (school and district leaders) and the ways that I can help my teachers to know and understand that they are appreciated. This includes a variety of variables such as autonomy, empowerment, decision making processes, distributed leadership, opportunities for collaboration and peer feedback, work environment, professional development, pedagogical support, flexibility, peer connections, and student relationships.

The other type of appreciation relates to you the parents (and maybe even the students who are reading this). A number of authors have written about the important role that parents play in promoting teachers’ wellbeing. Here are two pieces that especially caught my attention:

One research project in particular explored teacher-pupil, teacher-teacher, and teacher-parent relationships and the impact of each on teachers’ pedagogical wellbeing–specifically, the frequency that teachers viewed each relationship to be either (a) empowering and engaging or (b) stressful and burdensome. The authors concluded that student relationships have the greatest influence on teachers’ wellbeing, student and colleague relationships have the greatest positive impact on teachers wellbeing, and parent interactions tend to be more stressful than empowering for teachers (Soini et al. 2010). More specifically, “If parents were not interested in their child’s education or questioned the teacher’s pedagogical efforts and authority, the situation was considered problematic and burdensome by the teachers” (Soini et al., 2010, p. 743).

Yildirim (2014) noted that parent appreciation was a key component of teachers’ professional wellbeing and concluded that “Initiatives to develop teachers’ professional well-being should focus on … opportunities to appreciate them for their efforts” (p. 74).

So what might this mean for parents?

Well, I would suggest that teachers definitely need something from parents. First, teachers need you to be involved in your child’s education. This can be tricky. Over-involvement can not only be counterproductive to your child’s education and growth but also might drive teachers nuts. On the flip side of the coin, a lack of involvement can be frustrating for teachers and leave them feeling very alone and unappreciated. So please be involved in your child’s education.

But in addition to your involvement, teachers also need to know that you understand, respect, value, and appreciate the work that they do each day. They bring an incredible amount of heart to the hours of education, study, and ongoing professional development that it takes to be a teacher in the 21st century. They need to hear, see, and feel your appreciation in tangible ways. I believe (and research suggests) that in so doing, you will help to promote the wellbeing of teachers. This, in turn, will benefit your children, leading to better relationships with their teachers and improved achievement (there is actually research to document that).

Next week is teacher appreciation week. Please take a second to show our teachers some heartfelt appreciation with a sincere note, a gift card to Starbucks or a restaurant, a Caribbean cruise (wait a minute…that might be a bit much), or some other honest heartfelt gesture. Even just taking the time to look them in the eye, shake their hand, and say “thank you” can go a very, very long way.

Cheers!

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References

American Federation of Teaches (2015). Quality of Worklife Survey. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.

Acton, R., & Glasgow, P. (2015). Teacher wellbeing in neoliberal contexts: A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 40(40), doi:10.14221/ajte.2015v40n8.6

Banerjee, N., Stearns, E., Moller, S., & Mickelson, R. A. (2017). Teacher Job Satisfaction and Student Achievement: The Roles of Teacher Professional Community and Teacher Collaboration in Schools. American Journal of Education, 123(2), 203-241. doi:10.1086/689932

Bermejo-Toro, L., Prieto-Ursua, M., & Hernandez, V. (2016). Towards a model of teacher well-being: Personal and job resources involved in teacher burnout and engagement. Educational Psychology, 36(3), 481-501.

Cahill, H., Coffey, J., McLean Davies, L., Kriewaldt, J., Freeman, E., Acquaro, D., & Archdall, V. (2016). Learning with and from: Positioning school students as advisors in pre-service teacher education. Teacher Development, 20(3), 295–312. doi:10.1080/13664530.2016.1155478

Collie, R. J., Shapka, J. D., Perry, N. E., & Martin, A. J. (2015). Teacher Well-Being: Exploring Its Components and a Practice-Oriented Scale. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment,33(8), 744-756. doi:10.1177/0734282915587990

Crown, K. M. (2009). Do interactions between mentors and mentees decrease levels of new teacher attrition? (Order No. 3340918). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305179238). Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/ docview/305179238?accountid=14506

Goldring, R., Taie, S., & Riddles, M. (2014). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-Up Survey. First Look. NCES 2014-077. National Center for Education Statistics.

Grenville-Cleave, B., & Boniwell, I. (2012). Surviving or thriving? Do teachers have lower perceived control and well-being than other professions? Management in Education, 26(1), 3–5. doi:10.1177/0892020611429252

Helms-Lorenz, M., & Maulana, R. (2016). Influencing the psychological well-being of beginning teachers across three years of teaching: Self-efficacy, stress causes, job tension, and job discontent. Educational Psychology, 36(3), 569-594.

Hills, K., & Robinson, A. (2010). Enhancing teacher well-being: Put on your oxygen masks! Communique, 39(4), 1.

Hudson, P. (2012). How Can Schools Support Beginning Teachers? A Call for Timely Induction And Mentoring for Effective Teaching. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(7).

Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). Teacher turnover and teacher shortages: An organizational analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 499–534. doi:10.3102/00028312038003499

Ingersoll, R. M., & May, H. (2012). The magnitude, destinations, and determinants of mathematics and science teacher turnover. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(4), 435–464. doi:10.3102/0162373712454326

Jurow, A. S., Tracy, R., Hotchkiss, J. S., & Kirshner, B. (2012). Designing for the future: How the learning sciences can inform the Trajectories of Preservice teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), 147–160. doi:10.1177/0022487111428454

Lambert, R. G., McCarthy, C., O’Donnell, M., & Wang, C. (2009). Measuring elementary teacher stress and coping in the classroom: Validity evidence for the classroom appraisal of resources and demands. Psychology in the Schools, 46(10), 973–988. doi:10.1002/pits.20438

Margolis, J., Hodge, A., & Alexandrou, A. (2014). The teacher educator’s role in promoting institutional versus individual teacher well-being. Journal of Education for Teaching,40(4), 391-408. doi:10.1080/02607476.2014.929382

Markow, D., & Pieters, A. (2012). The MetLife survey of the American teacher: Teachers, parents and the economy. New York: Metlife.

Portner, H. (2005). Teacher mentoring and induction: The state of the art and beyond. Choice Reviews Online, 43(04), 43–2340–43–2340. doi:10.5860/choice.43-2340

Price, D., & Mccallum, F. (2014). Ecological influences on teachers’ well-being and “fitness”. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education,43(3), 195-209. doi:10.1080/1359866x.2014.932329

Rath, T. (2007). Strengths finder 2.0: A new and upgraded edition of the online test from Gallup’s now discover your strengths. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

Rath, T., & Harter, J. (2010). Well-being: The Five essential elements. United States: Gallup Press.

Rumsby, R. (2007). Staff Well-Being: Negotiating New Organizational Realities in Schools Facing Challenging Circumstances. International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning, 11(17).

Soini, T., Pyhalto, K., & Pietarinen, J. (2010). Pedagogical well-being: Reflecting learning and well-being in teachers’ work. Teachers and Teaching, 16(6), 735–751. doi:10.1080/13540602.2010.517690

Spilt, J. L., Koomen, H. M. Y., & Thijs, J. T. (2011). Teacher wellbeing: The importance of Teacher–Student relationships. Educational Psychology Review, 23(4), 457–477. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9170-y

Van Petegem, K., Creemers, B. P. M., Rossel, Y., & Aelterman, A. (2005). Relationships between teacher characteristics, interpersonal teacher behaviour and teacher wellbeing. The Journal of Classroom Interaction, 40(2), 34–43. doi:10.2307/23870662

Vazi, M. L. M., Ruiter, R. A. C., Van den Borne, B., Martin, G., Dumont, K., & Reddy, P. S. (2013). The relationship between wellbeing indicators and teacher psychological stress in eastern cape public schools in South Africa. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 39(1). doi:10.4102/sajip.v39i1.1042

Yildirim, K. (2015). Testing the main determinants of teachers’ professional well-being by using a mixed method. Teacher Development, 19(1), 59-78.

Teacher Appreciation Week, part 3 of 4

Hard-Work

Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Wow–what a crazy week it’s been! Thursday night we sent all the kids home for a long weekend, but I remained at school until about 8:45. Then yesterday, on our day “off,” I was right back in the office at 6:00am and finally took off for the night around 7:45pm. Here’s the thing: I wasn’t the only one working yesterday. Almost the entire staff gave up part of their day off to sacrifice their own time for students. Teachers were…

  • Giving practice AP exams so that students would have the best possible chance of earning some college credit in that class.
  • Prepping for AP practice exams (so they could come back in on Monday’s day off to work with students).
  • Supervising “Saturday” detention.
  • Working on the schedule for next year to ensure that students get as many of the classes that they’ve asked for and ensuring that teachers have time to work collaboratively as a team–an enormous factor related to teachers’ wellbeing.
  • Prepping for the art extravaganza next week.
  • Prepping for Senior projects next week.
  • Straightening up the classroom that got away from them last week because they devoted all of their free-time to students.
  • Creating lesson plans for next week.
  • Coaching.
  • Chaperoning prom and after-prom.

These are the things I was able to confirm for sure. Who knows how many other things were happening throughout the building that I didn’t even know about.

Great teachers are the hardest working people I’ve ever known! But it’s not the hard work that creates stress, burns them out, and leads to high attrition rates in education. It’s actually…

(Stay tuned–final part of the series next Thursday. Here is an informative read to peruse between now and then: Teacher Shortage Crisis Getting Worse.)

Cheers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 2 of 4

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Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Last week I began a bit of a discussion around teacher turnover, staff wellbeing, and upcoming Teacher Appreciation Week. I noted my passion for finding ways to positively impact the system by promoting the wellbeing of teachers.

Although the idea of teacher wellbeing has been on my mind now for about six years, it wasn’t until this past September that I found myself inspired to pursue this as part of my dissertation. A professor of mine flipped a switch inside of me when he started class last semester noting for us all some of the the recent statistics and trends in schools. The statistics that most captured my attention:  50% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years, and more than 50% of teachers have less than 2 years of experience. Yikes!

So I started to do a little digging–anecdotally at first, and then with some more empirical research. The result was a fairly lengthy paper, but here are few highlights:

“…Riggs (2013) notes that “overall job dissatisfaction” is one of the primary reasons that teachers choose to leave the profession. The American Federation of Teachers conducted a Quality of Worklife Survey in which teachers revealed that their enthusiasm for teaching had dropped from 89% at the start of their career to only 15% in their present placement (American Federation of Teachers, 2015, p. 3). The research of Markow and Pieters (2012) further amplifies these points, demonstrating that “Teacher satisfaction has declined to its lowest point in 25 years and has dropped five percentage points in the past year alone, from 44% to 39% very satisfied. This marks a continuation of a substantial decline noted in the 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher; teacher satisfaction has now dropped 23 percentage points since 2008 (p.45).”

…One of the most obvious and oft-cited symptoms that creates job dissatisfaction and leads to turnover is stress. Spilt (2011) notes that teaching is one of the most stressful professions (p. 458). Riggs (2013) echoes this assertion noting that teachers who leave the teaching profession often cite individual stress as their reason for their decision to move on.

…Other than job dissatisfaction and stress, “High rates of teacher turnover are of concern not only because they may be an outcome indicating underlying problems in how well schools function, but also because they can be disruptive, in and of themselves, for the quality of school community and performance” (Ingersoll, 2001, p. 505). Thus, while teacher turnover is a serious concern that does disrupt the quality of school performance, turnover is not the problem. It is a symptom of more serious issues that exist beneath the surface.

…Richard Ingersoll, a former high school teacher who chose to leave the profession, says, “One of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible. But it’s very real: It’s just a lack of respect” (Riggs, 2013, p. NA). Interviews with other teachers who chose to leave the profession revealed that they also cited intangible reasons such as “work-life balance” for their decision to abandon teaching (Riggs, 2013).

As you can see, stress and “wellbeing” play an obvious role in this teacher attrition crisis that we’ve experienced in our nation. Sadly things have only gotten worse in the years since some of this research was first published. So what is to be done then???

Well, I suggest that there are a number of root causes driving this issue of teacher turnover (and the related problems of lower student achievement, higher drop out rates, increased mental health problems, etc…). Some of these root causes are within our circle of influence, while others are beyond our immediate control. But I do believe that schools, districts, and communities have the power to make a positive impact on these problems by addressing the wellbeing of teachers. …and some recent studies are beginning to support this idea. More on that next week.

Cheers!

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