Sunday, October 11, 2015

FEAR- Worst Day Ever

You know, so much happens every day when you are a principal. Sometimes kids are late, and you are dealing with tardies. Sometimes kids misbehave, and you are dealing with punishment. Sometimes parents are complaining, and you are consoling. So many different things, but sometimes things happen that you are not ready for. That is what happened to me. Tuesday I was watching the cameras trying to find out why some crazy stuff was happening. Little things were going on and I wanted to stop it before it become a big thing. So there I was watching video for a while. So much to look at haha. When suddenly my secretary called me on the radio and told me a local policeman was on the phone. I answered, and my worst nightmare had come true. A local person had made a threat against "the school". Immediately I realized we needed to go into lockdown. Now, I know we have all practiced lockdown, but the thought that this was a real threat was unimaginable. I immediately began lockdown procedures, but it was so unreal. I kind of went into a zone that took me away from the fear and just had reaction. My doors were locked, my classrooms were locked, my personnel were placed in strategic placement, and local police were arriving. What a surreal experience! This lockdown lasted over two hours. Man was I happy when we got the call that the lockdown was over. 
Several things happened that we learned to deal with. Some of those things included lunch, PE, and students outside. 
I'm writing this post to help deal with it. It's amazing the zone I went into and I wasn't even scared during it. My teachers were wonderful and kept the students calm and safe. Extra teachers (those without a class) were so very helpful. I know how blessed I am!!! 
However, when I finally got home that evening and my children and husband were home I realized the crisis of the day. I won't lie, I cried: a lot. Many parents called, texted, or sent messages to thank me, and it hit me hard. We have so many students, and I am responsible for everyone of them. Man, that's huge! Each of my student are so special to me. There are the ones that bring me baked goodies, the ones that talk to me about my Ole Miss Rebels, the ones the rag me because they are not Rebels, the ones that I have known since 2nd grade, and the ones that are best friends with my son. Each and every student in my school is so very special to me. What if I had not kept them safe? What if that crazy man had acted on his threat? That's what hit me the hardest. The "what ifs" make it hard to sleep at night. The "what ifs" make it hard to get up in the morning. My sweet husband said not to worry about it and know I did all I can. But dang. Was that enough? I don't know. All I know is that we are looking at some other security measures to keep my 363 students safe. I will find the money and buy what's necessary. But now I have to deal with this feeling. This crazy feeling of not being safe. I'm still a nervous wreck.Every time my kids go outside to break or to the gym I want to scoop them up under my wing and not let them go. Is that crazy? I have to really work at letting them go. But I'm working on it. Each day is getting a little easier. 
I will continue going in and working to educate and protect those sweet babies. Do they know the world is a crazy, scary place? I hope not. I hope we did our job in helping them to feel secure. I know each and every day I will work to make sure they feel that way. I will work each and every day to make sure the "Worst Day Ever" was only for me. I saw this sign. FEAR- Fear Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise. I choose the second option. I choose to rise above this crazy day, learn from it, and be better for it. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Day in the Life

Well, we did it. We changed something. Whoa. Open house is normally 5:00-8:00 and parents come and go as they please. It's usually on the same night as all the other Open House nights in the county.  I found that to be a busy night of parents wanting to ask questions of certain teachers and other teachers never seeing them. Sometimes the line outside doors would be 30 minutes long, but it was an unproductive night. I wanted parents to meet ALL the teachers and hear ALL of their stories. So, I made a change. Boy, was it a scary change! You don't know how much people are against change until you change something. But my thoughts are if it's best for the students I'm going to make that change. I may fall flat on my face but I'm going for it anyway. 
So the change was made. I have a super supportive superintendent who allows me to have crazy ideas. Thank goodness for that. I have a staff of amazing teachers willing to try crazy ideas. Thank goodness for that. I have an assistant principal willing to do whatever I come up with. Thank goodness for that. As a faculty we brainstormed about things to talk about in the time they had. Here are some things they came up with:
       * do a bell ringer 
       * go over class procedures 
       * go over discipline plan
       * show books or texts using in class 
       * show how to use the starboard 
       * show about Google forms, email, and Mac Books 
       * in PE show the fitness tests 
       * in cheer show how they work out 
       * anything else you come up with 
So the time came. As parents started piling in I felt that small need to vomit - hehe - but I didn't. At 6:30 I dismissed all "students" to the classes. I made announcements just like we do every morning. We even did the school mission statement and pledge. I explained how the night would go. Then it was time to begin. The teachers were on. It was time to "teach" the parents. It was great. They were a little nervous at first but then something amazing happened. They just took over and did what they do best. I was so proud of them. You know, teaching a child is one thing, teaching a parent is a whole different thing. They are the best faculty in the world. 
I rang the bell after 5 minutes, told them to go to 2nd period, and gave them the full 3 minutes between classes. I wanted parents to see how long they really had between classes and that it was plenty of time to use the bathroom and go to the locker. Then I rang the tardy bell. During this period my teachers continue to be amazing. We continued to ring the bell and send them to each class as the night went on. 
One thing we noticed as the night went on was that the classes were not long enough, so we extended them to 10 minutes. This included the time between classes. That gave the teachers enough time to explain everything. Another change we will make for next year is that for parents with multiple children. We will split time time to 5th/6th grade from 5:30-6:30 and 7th/8th grade from 6:30-7:30. That way those parents can spend the whole night in one grade and not have to move between grades. 
I am so happy we made the change. I feel it was best for the kids and their parents. It was to be a fun filled night for parents to enjoy "A Day in the Life" of their child. I hope we succeeded in that and helped them enjoy their child's real day. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hopes, Dreams, & Fears

My biggest fear is the thought that a child will wake up and not want to come to school. I don't mean, "It's 6:00 and I don't want to get up." I mean absolutely hates going- it's not fun, no friends, bad grades- whatever the reason. So my hopes and dreams revolve around doing what I can to make school a place they want to come. It's safe, fun, and educational. It's a place where they feel loved as well as a place where they are prepared for high school.
Our biggest change we are working on for next year is the move to block scheduling. Having 80/90 minutes for core classes is a dream come true for most teachers. It has taken many meetings and looking at lots of different schedules to find something that is right for us at IMS. We have several different challenges that affect our scheduling including sharing 3 teachers with other schools: Our band, chorus, and GEMS teachers. So we also had to work around that. But I think we have gotten pretty close to what we need. I have given copies to the teachers and asked them to look over it and see what issues might arise. This is a community effort. I need their input. They asked for it, I know they want it, but I also know they see things I didn't think about. This change is so important for the students. More time in ELA/Math/Science is a priority. There will be time built in for remediation and enrichment so that we can hit students of all levels. 
The counselors role is changing as well. The job description is now so much better. We are making several changes to go with that. She is moving rooms so her "classes" will be more private. She will still have the smaller private office inside her room but this helps with any students who pass by and look in. Students that miss a lot of days and students struggling are students we plan to spend more time with. Right now I check grades every 4 weeks and conference with struggling students but I feel that isn't enough. We want to do more. Our counselor is going to meet with them in group and individually to try to get to the root of the problem. Chronic absenteeism leads to failing grades and failing grades lead to drop outs. We want to work on that earlier in their school career. 
Talking about attendance. Our attendance rate is "good". But if you understand ADA then you know a single percentage changes you from good to bad. There is no in-between. We want to increase that overall and the only way to do that is to address the chronic absences. Our counselor is one way but we also plan on providing rewards to those who have perfect attendance weekly/monthly/ and for the year. In the past we have used free food coupns from local restaurants, gift cards from Wal-Mart, and a reading device such as a Nook. I plan to look for more rewards to get them to come to school. If they don't come, they can't learn. 
A big change we are also working on is a new break area for both 5/6 grade and 7/8 grade. We have an amazing PTA that has helped with the purchase of some items such as concrete picnic tables. But we are also sewing grass, putting in a basketball goal, and adding flowers. This is a huge endeavor because it requires the cutting of some trees and such but we can handle it. 
The last item I'm working on may be the most important because it deals with the health and stress of my teachers. I'm looking for grants to build a small exercise room for the teachers. I feel that a healthy teacher is a happy teacher. We are often going straight from school to games with little time in between. If any of you are like me once I leave I'm done! So I would like to get 3 machines: an elliptical, a stepper, and a treadmill. I know I would feel better if I just took 30 minutes a day, so I would love to be able to give my teachers that opportunity. 
I have so many hopes, dreams, and a few fears but I know I can tackle each one of these items. I guess I will do it like you would if you were asked to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day without Mom

Today was probably one of the hardest days I have ever had- if not the hardest. It was even harder than the day my mom died. I think I was so busy taking care of things I just didn't think about the things that would come later. Things such as the first Mother's Day without her. Because Mom died so close to Christmas I was still so numb that I just kind of went through the day without really feeling anything. Her birthday was in February and again just went through the day. 
But this week has been rough. I have dreaded today all week. It started when I was at a store and saw some pink flowers in a pink basket. I automatically said, "I want to get those for Mom for Mother's Day." Then I remembered. See, I have always gotten Mom hanging baskets for Mother's Day. But this year is different. I have teared up a few times but just tried to ignore it and move on. This morning though it hit me. Mother's Day without my mom. It even sounds painful. I looked through several pics just to see her smile. As tears fell I took some time to remember her and her love for me. Her pride in her voice when she spoke of my siblings and me. The love that shone in her eyes on the day I got married. The tears that fell the days I had my sons. Those days were as precious to her as they were to me. 
When my boys got up and hugged me, wishing me Happy Mother's Day, I tried to get myself together. Then they gave me their gift. It was a beautiful bracelet with all our birthstones in it. I completely lost it. I cried like a baby. I hugged them so tight hoping to give them the love that I felt. Maybe they will realize how much I love them and how much they mean to me. I hope I can be the kind of mom to them that I had. Being a teenager they probably do not realize it now. But maybe when they are older they will. 
You know what? I got those hanging baskets anyway. I took them to my dad and gave them to him. He now has them hanging in the same place Mom would. It felt good to stay with tradition for both of us. 
If you still have your mom I hope you called her, visited, or even better -hugged her tight. You need it as much as she does. Make sure she knows how much you love her now. Honor her while you still can. Unfortunately, there will come that day for everyone: Mother's Day without mom. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Looking to the Future

I have been watching a lot of baseball. We haven't had a great year. Some decisions have been questioned and the answer was, "We will be great next year." That made me think. We should be preparing for the future. But you know if you look for the red light down the road you might hit the car in front of you in the butt. So how do you prepare for the future without wrecking the present? 
First, look at what you have to start with. This may not be what you consider championship quality. But as a leader it is your responsibility to get them where you want them to be. 
Next, evaluate each teacher and hourly worker. What are their good points and what are the points that need growth? That's the easy part. 
Then comes the hard part. Tell them. Yep tell them. What do you see that's good? What do you see that's not as good? I struggle with this part as do most people. It's so hard. 
However, I can't build my future team by ignoring my present team. There are some really good teachers coming I know! But there are some really good teachers here already. They just need to be told what changes need to be made in order to grow. If I just let them continue to teach as they always have they will never change. That doesn't mean they can't. I am not going to throw them away and only work with the new, young teachers. My older, more experienced teachers have a lot to show us. Every few years the curriculum changes. Those teachers have been through the changes before and know how to flow with it. Most of these experienced teachers also know how to manage the classroom. 
I don't know all the answers but I do know we can't throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes we need change, but we don't have to start completely over. If you build a team with all new players you will not be successful. The experience is missing. A great baseball team marries the experienced players and the new players to build a new, stronger team. If you don't use your experience you are setting yourself up for failure. 
Quit looking so far down the road that you don't see what's right in front of you. Like the old saying, it's as plain as the nose on your face." Grow what you have, teach what you are getting, and see success in your present instead of having to wait for the future! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

My opinion


I have been reading a lot of articles and books lately. Some say reteach- redo. Some say build grit. I am not sure which is right. I can see the benefits of both.
One amazing author says giving zeros tells the students the work wasn't important. We should reteach, let re-do, and give full credit. I agree with this because if I require lesson plans from my teachers, and if the teacher takes the time to develop amazing lesson plans, they should require the student to learn the standards. Each standard is required so why would we let the student get away without doing the work and without learning the standard? Why would we allow students to move on (or not) to the next grade unprepared? We all know the next year's teachers will make a judgement on what the student knows. Because of all of this we have developed a ZAP policy at my school. (Zeros aren't permitted.) If a student doesn't do the homework, doesn't finish the class work, or does poorly on a test the are sent to ZAP. In ZAP they are required to complete all work or be zapped again until they do. This has been extremely successful. Most students do not want to miss break or other free time and will get work done on time. 
I recently read a compelling article that says when we started lavishly praising kids and handing out trophies to all we made kids coddled, slower, and less likely to persevere. I agree somewhat with this as well. We have developed a set of students who want to wait until the retake to learn it. We have a set of students whose parents will come to school and demand their child be allowed to turn their project in late because they are "busy". The work is half done but want all credit. 
I do believe we should reteach and retake. It is our responsibility to make sure every child in our class learns what is necessary. If a child isn't doing the work the teacher needs to handle that. My opinion is that the student isn't there "yet". But we can get them there. Zeros are not permitted and that teacher needs to set expectations so the students know it will not be acceptable. The teacher should not accept the half-done project. Make them complete it. The teacher should also be held responsible for keeping the students engaged and making them want to learn. Students will rise or fall depending on expectations of the class, teacher, and school. 
But what about "that kid" : the one that will not do anything, the one that stays in ZAP for a week and still hasn't finished, the one after reteaching stills makes a poor grade? These are the students we end up having to give the zeros to. Time runs out and you have to make the decision to go ahead and move on. Are we teaching that student responbility? Doubtful. I know this because the next 9 weeks he does it again. 
Which is the correct answer? I am not sure. What I do believe though is that every student and every school is different and may require a few different things. We as a school system need to develop what is best for us. Maybe that requires a little bit of both philosophies. 
However, all this is my opinion. And you know about opinions: they are like feet- everyone has them and most of them stink. You decide. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Today's Digital Leader

Digital leadership is a necessity in today's world because digital learning is the future. All magazines and newspapers are online. My phone can do what my desktop can do. So the question remains- as a school leader what am I going to do about it? I use Twitter, Remind, Blogger, Instagram, Facebook, all things Google, etc. but am I encouraging my teachers and students too? Good question. Now some of these I use to promote our school. I believe it's important to flatten the walls of our school and let the community know what we are doing and how we are learning. Most teachers and students are on these social media sites. But I want my teachers and students on more than"social" media. I want them learning. I have learned so much in the last year and I want them to learn from it too. Here are some things I want my teachers to be working on.

Twitter-  I want my teachers on Twitter chats. A list of chats and some great information can be found on Jerry Blumengarten has compiled a list of Twitter chats and "how to's".  Twitter helps me stay abreast of all the new and important things happening in education. Coming from a small town we sometimes get comfortable and do not attempt to grow. Twitter keeps me growing. I have also had the amazing opportunity to "meet" some wonderful authors such as Eric Sheninger (Digital Leadership), Todd Whitaker (What Great teachers Do Differently), and Dave Burgess (Teach like a Pirate). I have also been able to chat with great principals such as Daisy Dyer Duerr and Beth Houf. 

* Google Hangouts/ Docs/ Sheets - I am obsessed with Google right now. I can work on documents and spreadsheets from home or from my phone. That's awesome. I can then send to my teachers and they can edit them or share them. I want my teachers to start using this with students. They can email them to the students and no copies are being made. Students can use them to answer questions, research, or do make-up work. Hangouts are also great to help students who have missed school and need some tutoring. Teachers can work together and help every student without having to go anywhere. The ideas are endless.

* Blogging- I love to put my thoughts into a blog. Sometimes I want to teach something, but sometimes I just want to vent. I want my teachers to use blogging in the classroom. Every student should have a blog. There are many free student blog sites such as Edublog, Kidblog, Weebly, and 21classes, plus many others. Information on these can be found easily.

March 13 is Digital Learning Day. We will be on Spring Break that day so I have asked my teachers to come up with plans for April, and we will do our own Digital Learning Day. I cannot wait to see what they have come up with. The only rule is no paper and pencils. It should be a wonderful day. I hope it will motivate my teachers to step outside their comfort zone and do some new amazing things. I will share our day with you next month.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It is what it is

Today made the 6th day in 2 weeks we have been out of school. Now you have to remember, I live in the south. Mississippi does not get snow and ice on a regular basis so this has been quite different for us. I have rescheduled 9 weeks exams and STAR tests 4 times. We are supposed to start state testing next week. Did you hear what I said? We have gone to school 2 1/2 days in 2 weeks. In those 2 weeks were supposed to do have 9 weeks tests and STAR testing. That hasn't happened and now we have to state test. I woke up this morning (out of school again) with a massive headache and my husband said, "Are you stressed?" Haha.
I took a breath and realized he was right. I had let this stress me completely. I had taken the whole problem on my shoulders. My teachers and students are very important to me. Their happiness and stress free life is very important to me. So I wanted to take all the stress off of them and try to fix all. Did I mention I'm a middle child. That means I'm a fixer. So for 2 weeks I have been trying to fix our weather problem. Guess what? It isn't working. I have finally realized I'm only in charge of my school- not the weather. I have always said, "It is what it is, and that is all it is." I have even said I want that on a t-shirt.  
It's time for me to remember that. It's time to put things into perspective. I'm going to school tomorrow, I'm going to greet my students that I haven't seen in a while, and I'm going to talk to them about the snowmen I know they built. I want to hear about their sledding and their snowball fights. The tests last just a couple of days but these memories will last forever. What's important in life is suddenly apparent. 
My stress is gone, my thoughts are clear: "It is what it is, and that's all it is. 

Friday, February 20, 2015


I sit here tonight kind of in a state of shock. A neighboring student's parent was killed in a car accident today due to icy conditions. She was a "Good Samaritan" helping someone who had troubles on the ice. She dies along with another mom.

I'm kind of numb. We sit here all worried about 9 weeks tests and state testing. But you want to know the truth? None of that matters. That sweet mother of 4 - yes 4- has lost her life and those children have lost their mom. 
It's time to make priorities. 

State testing is a requirement, I understand that. But you know what? I'm not going to freak out because we have missed a week of school right before state testing. I'm not going to get upset because we can't finish STAR testing. I'm not going to lose it because 9 weeks test are next week. 

Having tests are important for a couple of reasons- have the students caught on to what we are teaching? Do they need remediation? Can we move on? Otherwise ..... I just don't see the big deal. 

Should we celebrate our loves? Mom, Dad, Children, Students,  Teachers, Athletes, Coaches...... The answer is yes. Let's celebrate Life. Let's take a minute to tell those we know... I love you. Because tomorrow .... Well tomorrow isn't promised. 

Today is the day to let them know. 

So to my teachers at IMS, my students and parents, my IMS family; I love you all dearly. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wishing Life Away

I'm sitting here on another snow day thinking of all the stuff I need to do. I spent all day yesterday rescheduling STAR tests, 9 weeks tests, and achievement tests. Then the call comes that it snowed  and roads are dangerous so here we are again. I got all frustrated because I spent literally hours working on schedules. Basically wishing my life away. Then it hit me. I was mad at something I can't control. The weather is just that thing. I can't predict it and I can't control it. Why am I getting mad about it? So, now I'm chilling out, getting supper ready, and just enjoying some time with my family. As principal I miss out on some things with my family because I am usually so concerned about someone else's child. But today, today is a day for MY family. So today I made a big breakfast, I made snow cream, and the boys have ridden four wheelers. I have enjoyed every minute of it. My boys are growing fast so this was a great moment to just BE. Tomorrow will be here quick enough. I will go back to school and go back to being a principal. Today though, today I am a mom.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I'm scared you won't love me anymore

The hardest part of my job is and will always be when I have to give consequences to a student who has broken the rules. Don't get me wrong. I know it's necessary, but sometimes it's difficult when you know the background of the child. I have been working closely with a child whose home life isn't like mine. So sometimes it isn't easy to understand what he is going through. However I have tried to spend more time listening.  I wasn't sure I was getting through to him, but I kept trying. I take time every morning to speak to all my students, asking how they are and talking about what they did last night. It was interesting to see him struggling with this. I could tell he wasn't used to talking to adults while not being in trouble. As the year progressed the talking came a little easier and a little longer. His behaviors became a little less in quality and quantity. I could tell we were building a relationship. I started working with the child last year while he was in 5th grade and I saw a lot of improvement. Then summer hit. While most teachers love summer, as admin, I'm not a huge fan of what I know happens in the summer; lack of supervision. Students like this are often left alone most of the summer to do what they want with little or no consequences. So that means come August I have to start over with anything I made progress with last year. Well this August was no different. This student started the year with a bang. Even though I took time every morning to talk to him and let him know I was still interested in his life, I could tell he had changed. And not for the better. He was in trouble constantly and after many talks I finally got to the root of it. I realized the unsupervised summer had made some changes in him that I alone couldn't fix. I contacted the correct people to help but knew this was an uphill battle. We still spend time every week talking, sharing, and I constantly told him "I love you, have a good day."  But I wasn't sure I was making any progress. 
This Thanksgiving the language teacher had the students write papers or letters. This student requested to be able to write his letter to me. She agreed and noticed he was very secretive about it. When finished he gave to her to give to me. I was floored. I knew we had made a connection but I also knew his behaviors this year were not always good. I share his letter for a few reasons. One, you are making a difference in children's lives. Two, even if the "behaviors" seem to still be there do not give up. Three, that child is depending on you, even if he/she doesn't act like it. 

Dear Mrs. Moss,
Mrs. D is making us write letters about what we are thankful for and I chose you! I know I can count on you to help me if I mess up somewhere down the road and if I need anything I know I could go to you. You would be there! I know you think I'm not trying to change , I really am! I have already stoped some things, and you know what I am talking about. I couldn't have done it without you. It's not that I was scared you were going to tell my parents, I was scared I would have disappointed you and you would stop loving me! And I still fill like that sometimes but anyway I still need help to change my ways so don't give up on me!
Happy thanksgiving 

Wow! Talk about powerful. After a lots of tears I came to realize our job is so much more than test scores and data walls. Our job is all about the connections we make with the students, because without that we have nothing. Has he changed for the better? Some. But more importantly, I hope I have changed for the better. Take this letter and replace my student's name with "That Student" in your school right now. What would you do or say to that child if he/she wrote you that letter? 
 I tell you what I did... I told him to never be scared.... I will never stop loving you. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Our future?!?

I have been thinking about the future of our children. Every day I look at these kids, smile with them, laugh with them, reward them, and sometimes even punish them. I know for a fact they are our future. That doesn't bother me. What concerns me is that our legislature doesn't seem to realize that. These last few months have been so difficult because I have come to realize the state doesn't care if I have 33 students in a classroom. They do not understand that more classroom management than classroom learning will be going on. These classes will have more time spent on whole group instruction than small group or one-on-one. They don't realize we will be moving backward NOT forward. Having said all that.... I want to say this. We as educators: administrators, educators, are here for the children. We are not here for the paycheck... Have you seen Mississippi's pay?!? We are here because we LOVE those babies. We are here because we want to see Mississippi move forward in the future. We want Mississippi to NOT be last in education. Why won't our legislatures understand  this? My teachers make one of the lowest paychecks available, yet they come in early everyday and stay late. They spend around $500 per year out of pocket for their class and never complain. 
In the last couple of weeks we have to come to realize we might lose some teachers and may have to put 30 in a classroom. You know what? I did that- about 20 years ago I had 30-35 in a classroom. Why are we moving backward? We have made class sizes smaller because we realized that way we are able to make sure that student learned to read and learned multiplication. Now we have to move backward?!? I just do not understand.
My focus and goal this year is to make sure that every student and every teacher knows how much we appreciate them. We will do everything we can to educate these children despite our legislature not wanting to fund a "failing system". We will find grants or fundraisers to help and we will make this work. But you know what? This will only work if I can keep my teachers. Frustration is my middle name.
I'm so scared of our future in Mississippi education, but I will never give up on our "future" generation.