Monday, October 3, 2016

Wheels on the Bus

Every student has a backstory. Do you know your students' stories? I thought I knew, but I really didn't. As a way to get to know my students a little better I decided to ride the bus routes. Everyone said I was crazy because most of our buses are not air conditioned and all the kids act much worse on the bus than at school. Haha. They were right about the air conditioning for sure. Those afternoon routes were very hot. I worked with each driver and scheduled a time to ride and I was ready.
The first route I rode was an afternoon route and it only had about 25 students on it. I thought this would be a quick route and would be a great starting place. Boy, was I wrong. It didn't have very many students because they were so spread out. We had to go to so many little apartments and neighborhoods I had never even heard of. I have lived in this town most of my life, but I went on roads I didn't know existed. We drove several miles down a rode, turned left, and went a couple of more miles just to drop of one child. By the time I got off the bus I was soaked in sweat and had been on the bus for about an hour and 15 minutes.
However, did I ever learn some things! Since I went on all the routes I can now tell which bus goes where. This is very helpful for students who have moved. I also have seen the living conditions of my students. Wow! There were some really beautiful houses and property. Some students lived in nice apartments or duplexes. Some lived in small but clean homes. And then..... Sadly some lived in homes no human should ever live in. I was appalled by some of the living conditions. Some "homes" had doors falling off and broken windows, some had a roof that was half fallen in or had a tree fallen on it. Some looked like an auction was going on in the front yard. There was so much stuff in the yard I couldn't see the house.
I also learned that the bus driver is a wealth of information. You have concerns about a student? Ask the bus driver. This person knows where that student lives, what the living conditions are, and what goes on in the yard. I also learned that students tell the bus drivers everything. Even stuff they wish they didn't' know.
Bad behavior, bad smells, and a bad attitude do not have an excuse, but I now have an understanding.
If you want to see why students behave the way they do you might can find an answer by simple riding the bus.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Importance of Mentoring

When reading over my evaluation last year one thing stuck out: giving new teacher support. Wow, that hadn't even occurred to me. I guess I assumed they came to my school with all the knowledge. So I thought about it and decided to make that my principal goal for the year. But there was one problem: I didn't know anything about setting up a mentoring program. Our county didn't haven't one so it was going to come from the ground up. I love Twitter and Google. Whatever you need can be found in one or both of those. So after quite a bit of research I put together a Mentoring program for my school.

The first thing I did was decide who needed mentoring. There are several thoughts: first year teachers, first year in the district, and first year in the school. I also considered teachers who were first year the year before (when I didn't provide the right amount of support). Since this was the first time to have a mentoring program I went with teachers in their first three years and those new to my school. 

The second thing I did was decide who would be the mentors. My school is blessed. We are full of amazing teachers so the decision was tough. And remember, I wasn't giving any monetary bonus for being a mentor. The teachers I picked were National Board Certified Teachers and had been teaching in that area for at least 5 years. They also has the test scores to back them up. 

Then came developing what to do next. I found several checklists where teachers could rate themselves on what they needed help on. After looking at several, I developed one appropriate for my school. I asked all my mentees to fill one out. I kept a copy and gave a copy to the mentors. This gave them a starting place. 

Next came giving them a time to meet on a consistent basis. This was not hard for me. We already have PLC's every Wednesday at 7:30. So I asked them to meet on the off weeks. Since I assigned subject area mentors they would be going to the same subject PLC then they would meet when the other subjects met. I didn't have to rearranged anything except duty. No mentor or mentee could have duty on Wednesday. (I forgot this once and asked them why they weren't on duty- oops) 

Then they were off. They met consistently between 2 and 3 times a month. I gave them a mentor log and asked them to keep up when they met and what they discussed. After the first month I let their needs control the discussion. If I saw something going on I would talk with the mentor and let them help with it. For example, one of my teachers was struggling with lesson plans. I asked the mentor to help them understand how to write them, use data, and show me when they were in groups or individual learning. Another example was when we had our Awards Night. The mentor made sure the mentee was dressed appropriately. I had not even thought about making sure they knew we dressed up for that. 

This worked well and I hope it helped those teachers not only in teaching but also in the day to day stuff that goes on in a school. 

This year I have made a few changes. I have come up with a mentoring handbook. This handbook has a month by month checklist for the mentor to discuss with the mentee. I hope this will help them remember what to discuss and tell the mentee about. I plan to continue first year teachers and first year to my school. Those experienced teachers may have what it takes to be a great teacher, but I want them to know how to post grades and what is expected from them in the lunchroom. Sometimes as admin we forgot to talk to those teachers about the day to day stuff. 

Mentoring is such an important part of a successful school year, but seems to be a part that is often forgot about. Mentoring not only helps our new teachers but lets our experienced teachers understand that we value them and their abilities.