being a teacher, school staff

Females Shouldn’t Be Principals and Other Idiotic Statements Overheard in Education

Not too long ago I heard someone (a female someone) say that they were not sure that a female principal would make a good fit at an elementary school.  Now mind you, this wasn’t any particular female principal, just the general notion that females really don’t have a place running a school.  When I probed a little deeper there seemed to be a notion that with all these female teachers that tend to flock to elementary levels (5 years old through 11 years old) there is a need for a strong male to keep us all in line.  After I picked my jaw off the floor I went home and could not stop thinking about it.

So I present to you the arguments I have come across when I hear negative talk of female principals running a school:

  • Women are ruled by their emotions and we all know how women get when they have PMS.
  • Women tend to cause more drama, not able to distinguish between fairness and friendship.
  • All those women in a school need a strong male role model to be ruled by.
  • All those boys in our schools need a strong role model to look up to it.
  • Women may be good at organizing but they are much too nice to make hard decisions.
  • Demanding parents will be able to run a female principal right over.

And this isn’t a single person voicing these opinions; this is permeated into the general school culture.  Why else do we not hear these types of blanket statements made about male principals?  What is holding all of us organized, fair, capable women back from being principals?  Are we just too nice to hold a position of power or will our emotions truly get the better of us?  Please enlighten me so we can stop the nonsense.

being a teacher, community, school staff

I am Nothing Special – Why Are Teachers Afraid to Share their Successes?

Even in the staunchest of schools, teachers celebrate their students.  Whether it is through formal rewards, which I am not a fan of, or informal recognition, which is more my style.  We celebrate achievements, goals, and recognize our students for the incredible minds, people, and human beings they are.  Teacher brag about their students in the lounge, and to their families.  We are quick to share the funny things they and highlight the amazing ideas they concoct.  We blog, we film, and we sing their praises to those that will listen because we think they deserve it.

So why is it that within teaching, if a fellow teacher or a teaching team receives recognition we have a harder time celebrating it?  Why is it that we often see other’s achievements as a knockdown to our own abilities?  Why is the competition so fierce among teachers to be the one recognized that we cannot celebrate the successes we all have?

I work in a school with incredibly talented people, who have amazing successes every day.  You walk through our hallways and you will see the excitement in classrooms, you will see innovation wherever you go and teachers striving to do everything possible to reach each and every child.  I have often written about the incredible people I work with.  And I wish we celebrated it.  I wish people were recognized just as much as we recognize our students.

So administrators and fellow teachers; what do you do in your building to celebrate everyone, and not by handing out awards?  How do you recognize the achievements of all of your staff?  Where do you start your celebrations?  It is time we stand together and and decide that one person’s success is a whole school’s success and that we are only as strong as our team.  Educators should not be afraid to share the great things they do, they should be yelling them from the rooftops.

attention, principal, school staff, talking

Dear Administrators – Will You Write to Me Instead?

Dear Administrators and Administrators To Be,
I know that some of you out there read this blog and for that I am very grateful.  I don’t often address you directly because I don’t feel it is my place but I have a simple plea as some of you embark on a new year.  An idea to plant, to spread and hopefully that can grow into a movement.  Something so simple, yet powerful, that we all should have realized a long time ago.

Many of us are in the midst of the back to school hustle in North America.  As excitement builds, time grows sparse and meetings pile up.  The other day I read a post from Lyn Hilt, a principal you should connect with if you don’t already know her, and something she stated rung so true to me that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.  She writes in her post about her in-service day “It’s Kind of Magical”

“Wait, Lyn, what about the laundry list of informational items you have to share with teachers on Day 1? Schedules, lunch and recess routines, important dates, blah, blah, blah?” I’m blessed with a faculty full of teachers who are capable of reading print.

See Lyn discovered something powerful.  We teachers can read, in fact, many of us are quite proficient readers and pay better attention to written information than to spoken words.  Many of us even tell our students’ parents that we prefer to communicate via email because it gives us time to digest, to process, and to reflect, while also providing a paper trail for all of our communication.  So what Lyn did, when she placed all of that important information for her teachers into a Google document was a huge step in the right direction; cutting out the time to tell teachers things that they can just as easily read on their own.

You see, people in education seem to be talkers, not all, but many, and so what happens at some of these meetings is that they drown in stories or longwinded explanations where really an email could have sufficed.

So dear administrators, as you plan for a new year or continue the one you are in, ask yourself whether what you need to say can be communicated in writing?  Can it be shared in a blog post for your school?  Can it be sent in an email?  A newsletter?  Or a Google doc for continued collaboration?  Can you spare your words and leave us time to collaborate instead?  Will you give your staff the gift of time to solve problems, share learning or even just cut out staff meetings (it has been done successfully)?  Will you go away from being the sage on the stage at meetings and welcome in more time for learning opportunities instead?

Lyn did it and so can you.   I wish you good luck and remember to keep it brief.



our classroom, pictures, school staff, tour

Ten Picture Tour – Plus One

Inspired by three fantastic people Cale Birk @birklearns, Katie Hellerman @TheTeachingGame and Jabiz Raisdana @Intrepid Teacher, I am happy to open up and share 10 pictures + 1 of my school environment.  So this is West Middleton Elementary…

The long hallway that I walk countless times a day.  Our building has been added to  3 times at least, each time it seems, adding another hallway.

As the founder of the Global Read Aloud, we have the Little Prince watching over us and all of the connections we make around the globe.

A very unmessy desk day, usually I have piles of stuff my students want me to watch or read, as well as all their work.  However, I leave a clean desk every single night – sick habit.  Notice my daughter’s picture on the computer, I change it weekly so the kids can see her too.

The school lies off a busy road leading out of Madison but my window looks into the playground area.  I have the most divine sunlight come in and we almost never have all of our artificial lights on in the room.

We are taking part in the Students Rebuild crane folding, I never knew how to fold origami before this and the kids are way better than I am.  It has been amazing to see student leaders emerge in this and the kids get fired up over helping others.

Being a native Dane I was raised on the fairy-tales of Hans Christian Andersen so a big thrill of mine is the annual fairy tale unit I do.  We go all the way back to the gruesome versions and then discuss the moral of the story from back then.  Right now we are reading “The Little Mermaid.”

A special collection of gifts for a care package we are mailing to Mr Foteah’s class in New York City – Matt, no peeking!  

A Venn diagram given to me by my favorite Nolan.  He surprised me with it on our last day together as a split class.  One circle is him, the other is me.  If I ever have a bad day; this is what matters.

Another reference to The Little Prince reminds me every day what my teaching philosophy is; if the kids fail, it is my fault.

They put me in the kindergarten wing, which means I get to look at incredible colorful art every day.

A glimpse at our office run by the amazing Sue.  Our school is fighting bullying and 5th graders have put up slogans all over.

 For other amazing 10 picture tours make sure you check out:


aha moment, answers, assumptions, balance, being a teacher, believe, change, education, education reform, educators, elementary, hopes, inspiration, invest, school staff, talented, teachers, teaching

Bring Out the Experts

The education community loves experts. Experts are flown in, bussed in, and wined and dined. If you are an expert on something chances are there is a school that wants to pay you for sharing your thoughts. In fact, you don’t even have to claim to be an expert, others will often bestow that title upon you as a favor. After all, how else will your expense be excused? So I wonder, how does one become an expert, after all, aren’t we all just humble learners?

The word expert is tinged with weight. To be an expert you must be not just knowledgable, but also an authority. Yet who decides when one is an authority? Does it need a book deal? A huge following? Or someone else who is an expert to look at you kindly? Who decides who the experts are?

We are quick to bring in outside experts whenever there is a need but often I wonder who could we have turned to on-site? Who at this school could already have shared that same information at a fraction of the price? Who at this school could have had the opportunity to teach others, much as we teach our students every day. I consider myself lucky being surrounded by experts every day. I find myself among some incredible educators that work hard to bring their expertise into the classrooms to benefit the students. Isn’t it time for all of us to recognize the experts among us?

I dare to propose that we are all experts. Although not world known, or even known outside of our small circles, yet we are knowledgable of something particular, something that we can claim authority on. And so consider this; at school you are indeed surrounded by experts. Whether they are experts at teaching the civil war, grammar, haikus or how to dribble, they have deep intimate knowledge that they can pass on to others. So share your expertise with others, go ahead open up and discuss what you know you are good at. We have to get better at celebrating each others knowledge, each others succeses, simply each other. We are all experts, how will you foster expertise?

education reform, school staff, Student-centered

If Kids Ran the School

Last week I asked my students to blog about what they would change if they had invented school.  While some may think their answers predictable, I think they offer valid suggestions as we move forward in our educational reform.

  • More Recess – while easily dismissed as impossible, I think that this being the top response shows that students need more breaks during instruction.  I do sometimes provide an extra recess if the weather is nice, but often there simply is not time for a full recess experience.  What I can do on a regular basis, though, is to give them partner talk time, free choice for a couple of minutes or even just shift activities more often.  Anything  to offer them some chance for movement and resetting of their brains.
  • 4 Day School Week – It was not that students wanted less time in school, in fact, they suggested longer school days so that they could have 3 days off to be with their family.  I have discussed how much I value family time myself so I can understand the time to just be a kid and to let all of the new information sink in.
  • Allow electronics.  After a recent lunch with my students I was not surprised to hear that most of them had received an Ipod Touch or something similar for Christmas.  I believe, as many do, that the way of the future will be students supplying personal electronic devices alongside schools.  What a great way to incorporate known tools into our learning environment.
  • More choices.  Whether it be choosing your teacher, your room, your learning partner, or just the project, students were begging for more choices in their day.  While I feel my school allows students many choices, this was a great reminder to constantly challenge myself to offer more choices than I perhaps have felt comfortable doing in the past.
  • More fun.  Students wanted to play more math games, chew bubble gum, have lunch with their teachers, play more in the room and just be more creative overall.  

What do you think your students would make their priority?  Is there a way to incorporate ideas from this into your room?  I am certainly trying to.   If you would like to see their full responses, visit our kidblog and leave them a comment or two.