Monday, July 25, 2011


Long time, no write! I have missed the blog the way you miss an old friend that brought you good times but cost you some time and effort too! I always get nostalgic about the start of a new school year, but this summer has been a bit tough with family and school issues taking a front seat and relaxation and rejuvenation taking a back seat in the "way, far back" as we used to call it in our station wagon growing up! So, to kick off the school year, I am speaking to the school district childcare workers at their summer conference tomorrow to get them excited about the school year...and here is an excerpt from my speech...

Now, I love to teach. I didn’t really grow up wanting to be a teacher, although I loved playing school and bossing around my sisters (maybe it was really just the bossing around part I loved at that age!). I decided to become a teacher at the end of my college freshman year when it was time to declare a major. And here are the honest reasons why….Number 1: I loved working with kids – I had babysit as long as I could remember and worked as a camp counselor for forever it seemed; and Number 2: I wanted to have the summers off! Funny now when you think about the fact that here we are meeting on July 26th!!! I also was trying to decide how to leave a legacy – I was reaching that age where I needed to find a purpose for my life, and what better way to do that than to help lead a child to learning. I also had a string of mediocre to just plain BAD teachers, so I thought…”I could do better than that!” So I (very naively) entered the teaching profession. What a shock it was to have my own set of kids to plan for, my own students (who weren’t as perfectly behaved as my memory served me from my childhood school days), and their parents too. But let’s be clear… parents send us the best ones they have – they don’t keep their best and brightest and most well-behaved kids at home, now do they?

Your jobs are even harder than mine – because your customers are the teachers themselves. Now, since I am a teacher, I can say this with full honesty….I expected nothing less than “perfection” as the primary characteristic for anyone who was my daughter’s caretaker. It started with a nanny when she was a baby, then an in-home daycare mom before sending her off to her little preschool environment and then on to Kindergarten. I take my role as a mom VERY seriously (I’m sure you don’t have any experiences with parents like that do you???). I love my job very much and most of the time I love being a mom as well (I do have a teenage daughter now, so I am well versed on the eye roll and the foot stomp if you need any tips!). I love my job as a mom so much that I have sacrificed many things in my parenting journey so that I can provide the best experiences I feel my daughter needs and my standards for her and anyone who cares for her are VERY HIGH!

So let’s focus on your customers – the parents of the kids you work with every day. There are many types of parents…let’s see if you can identify with these basic categories:

The Hoverers (also knows as the Helicopters)

Hoverers or Helicopter parents are forever trying to save their child. They want to fix everything for their kids and can’t stand for them to learn things for themselves. They might fail or get their feelings hurt! The kids in this family tend to be very tentative to take risks and don’t have very many tools to solve their own problems. These parents can become a real burden to kids as they grow older!

The Friends

These parents really struggle separating their role as parents to their children from friendship with them. They have trouble providing structure and boundaries and don’t even get me started with the difficulties they have with disciplining their little darlings!

The Whiners

The weather is too hot and too cold, the parking space that was available was too far away and they can’t BELIEVE you are not open the whole Thanks giving Break for them! They always have something about which to complain and they aren’t ever just satisfied with a situation. By the way…their kids are whiners too…just sayin!

The Worriers

Every bruise, stain and story has a terrible ending in these parents’ eyes. They don’t want little Johnny to fall, crack a tooth or god forbid, have a potty training accident! They think something is wrong with their child at the slightest runny nose and worry that your center isn’t providing enough cognitive stimulation, or baby dolls to develop social skills or whatever else they can find to worry. And by the way…their kids worry too…about storms, friends who are absent or whether their sleeping mat is set up exactly right!

The Invisibles

These folks are not around when you need them! Johnny has a slight fever – and they don’t return your phone call for a few hours. Johnny used up his extra set of clothes – good luck seeing another set in their bag for a few days or even weeks! Johnny bit a friend? Well good luck getting mom or dad to talk with you about it. They dropped him off with you this morning – now you need to handle everything!

The Supporters

And this category of parents is…wait for it….the most common category of parents, thank goodness! These parents are your majority and they want to work with you to support all you are doing for their child. They remember you at the holidays and thank you often and with a grateful heart for your commitment to their child. You call – they answer. You ask for something – and you get it before you can even remember asking. These parents are the ones you really enjoy, especially after an interaction (or an attempt at an interaction) with a parent from one of the other categories!

So...Parents reading this - where do you fall?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Falling for the Tricks is Fall. I love this time of year for the crisp, cool weather, the changing colors of the trees, football season in full swing and the smell of a distant fire creeping to my nose. Fall kicks off the busiest of holiday seasons for folks of all walks of life and there are so many ways to be involved with our kids and families this time of year.

But, let's be real. Fall (specifically October/November) kicks teachers' b**ts!!!! What starts off in August and early September as a year full of promise of great achievement for the students turns in to the biggest reality check of the school year. The moment comes for each teacher (ok, and each principal who's honest) when she (I don't have any men on my staff right now) realizes....OMG! I can't get all this stuff done! Oh, and the honeymoon is over for the students too. Routines start to become REALLY routine (read...boring) and the enthusiasm and excitement that starts off the year seems but a distant memory. Kids are testing the boundaries, the emails and calls from parents are less supportive and more questioning, and the paperwork - don't even get me started!

So stress doesn't exactly bring out the best in people. Tempers flare and little things become a major dramatic production. No less than three times last week I had to pull a staff member aside and have a pretty challenging conversation. Yuck, yuck, yuck! I feel like I need to hang a sign over my office that says, "Psychiatrist 5 cents!"

But here is the thing, friends. Fall Happens. Every year. October comes in, fooling us with its cool temperatures and fall foliage, only to trick us into believing we have no control over how things go in our lives. But wait, that is where the Trick in Trick or Treat comes in! It is just a trick, because the only control we actually do have during stressful times is the choice of our attitudes. And, last time I checked, no one suffered serious death or injury by working in a school during October! We will survive, and even thrive, just by choosing an "I can do this" attitude.

And this applies to me as much as every teacher out there. You feel dumped upon...we principals do to. Big deal - it's just part of the job. Don't fall for it - be the difference maker and the sign of hope for all others. Just be that superhero that our kids need - that is the best morale booster I know!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Administrative Council

So, tomorrow morning is our first Administrative Council meeting of the new school year. Ad Council (because we shorten EVERYTHING in TX to a nickname or acronym!) meets monthly, and the group is comprised of principals, directors, coordinators, cabinet and senior council. It is quite a diverse group, and over the years, the purpose of our meetings has been a bit unclear to me.

I am the principal of a wonderful public school. We meet as a staff about once a month and in teams much more often than that. We are starting our PLC (another acronym....Professional Learning Community) time next Wednesday for our weekly discussions about what students know, what they don't know, and what we are going to do about it! Principals dig meetings - it's how we communicate the culture and beliefs about our school with the internal and external customers we serve. So I am VERY sensitive to planning effective meetings. You know...agendas, goal setting, reflection, discussion, decision making...all very important to me as a leader.

So, when I head to these meetings, sometimes I know the agenda, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes we talk about leadership development concepts, but most of the time we haven't. I need this man! I need to sit with my peer group and learn together. We need a common understanding about the structures of our organization so that we can effectively and consistently lead our staff in the direction our district is headed....without this compass, we drift and float, relying on our own instincts to carry us through the lonely times as a principal.

Not that I want to add any pressure to our leadership, but I want this to be worth my time. I want to feel smarter, or better equipped to lead, or more informed, or more something! I don't want to be talked to, but rather talked with. I want to talk to someone I don't know and learn from him/her, or get some expertise from someone I already know, but maybe didn't know that part! So here's the challenge friends....lead me to greatness! I am already a very willing participant who WANTS this to be the best year of my career!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Texas School Ready

Our campus was invited to participate in a state funded grant this year called "Texas School Ready." 17 of our classrooms (but you know me...all of our staff has participated in the amazing professional development opportunities that come with this grant!) are structured within the grant, and we hope to become a Texas School Ready school at the end of this school year (for information about this grant, click here:

To boil it down, this program will measure how much our students learn (through developmentally appropriate and research based instruction and assessment practices for preschool aged students) during their time in Pre-K, and then follow them into Kindergarten to continue to track their learning throughout that school year as well. In Kinder, their typical state assessed data will be tagged as part of the grant, and we will be able to measure our effectiveness with our students as a whole. In addition, we will be able to meet individual students right where they are - and they are all over the place in these formative years! We will measure what they know, determine what they need to learn and then implement strategies to engage students in effective learning.

This is HUGE for us at the preschool level! In so many places (our place included), student success is measured by compliance and happiness, rather than on progress toward school readiness. Our friends at the K-12 level all over the country have a variety of both effective and worthless (in my humble opinion) research proven best practices for instruction and assessment, but Pre-K research has lagged behind. In addition, our staff has attended training and professional development opportunities for elementary teachers, and then tried to "modify" what they heard for our kids. NO MORE! Now, it's all about the students they teach and the best ways to do that. HOORAY!

But, this is going to kick them in the rear! We thought we worked hard, then we opened Lawson. We thought we worked hard in our first year last year, then we were accepted into this grant. I have already had a bit of resistance (a quote...."You're killing me with these free choice centers, Paige!") and some denial noted, but I know the drama is yet to come as they actually measure student learning - a huge look in a very clear mirror will show the cobwebs in the corners of our instruction in a big way!

But as I have said a thousand times, the needs of the students come before the comfort of the adults. It is time to move away from an adult centered environment - that is not working to close the achievement gap for our students! Our child centered and engaging learning opportunities will push our kids to be their own learning advocates, measuring themselves against the learning standards. Revolutionary in Pre-K for sure!

Stay tuned for the drama as it unfolds - and for stories of great success in the lives of our most needy MISD students!

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's all the in the Details

So, today was a lesson in details. The students and staff did an amazing job....but arrival and dismissal need some work! I say that every year, but this year, I came to some realizations. Better late than never!

First, although I usually love and embrace change of most any kind, the time change really threw a kink into the district and our community. Traffic was obscene and although we have a pretty syncopatic system with the school across the street, our shared throughway looked much like an LA freeway at rush hour for the better part of 45 minutes today. And let's just heads did NOT prevail! I walk out and everyone who has arrived first and filled the parking lot is in front of the school, excited to drop of their students for day 1. Since the lot was filled, the next set of arrivals thought it brilliant to park in the carpool line and leave their cars to bring their precious cargo inside! And don't even get me started on the crosswalk people! Change...hard for most and it doesn't usually bring out the best in people!

Also - three and four year olds love to be at home with their families. Even the poor ones, the mentally ill ones and the hungry ones! And, convincing them to stay with us can quickly get ugly. One grandma came pretty close to walking out of school half dressed because her grandson had such a tight grip on her dress! I know that I for one was covered in a soupy and dried mixture of my sweat from a 108 degree day mixed in with tears and other such facial ick from crying kids that were loved till they stopped said crying. I saw a huge dad leave sobbing because his daughter was having such a hard time separating...absolutely heartbreaking for daddy to go through.

But the greatest thing about our jobs...we get to start over tomorrow. New procedures will be learned day by day by our parents, kids will come to believe that school is a great place to spend the day, filled with love and learning. And the snot will come with much less frequency every day...which is a hopeful sign. And so today...did I do the best work of my career? What about tomorrow? I plan to make it happen!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Open Letter to My Teacher

Dear Teacher,
I am your student. I was enrolled in your school and assigned to your class, and tonight, I am super excited about seeing you and meeting my soon to be new friends in the morning! I am feeling nervous, excited and other feelings which are new to me, because I am not sure what will happen when I get to school and your classroom tomorrow.

My parents and their friends have been telling me that I am supposed to "mind" you - not sure what they mean by that, but I know that I want to please you so you will like me. Sometimes, my family gets really excited when I do something great, and sometimes, they get really mad at me when I don't do whatever it was they thought I should do or told me to do, and I don't like how that makes me feel. I wonder - what will you think of me?

I like lots of things...I like playing outside and watching TV and I like when people read stories to me. I know how to do things I have already learned, but I don't know what you want me to learn in your class. So, please tell me! Tell me what we are doing and how we are doing it, and I will try my hardest to make it happen. I really like doing things with my friends and touching everything as I go along, so make sure that you think up really cool games for us to play - we probably will learn something, but we won't even notice because we will be so busy talking and laughing about it all.

Oh, and I might miss my family, especially the first day. But don't worry, you can make that ok by showing me you love me, even if you just met me! I might not be clean or have new clothes or any school supplies, but I want to be loved just like you do. I promise to love you back even more than you can imagine. Please find out what makes me different from everyone else, but I want to believe that you love me more than the rest, just like my family (even if you really love us all the same...that is a grown up thing, not really the way a kid like me thinks!).

I feel pretty small around grownups, and sometimes, grownups don't treat me well at home. I wonder how you will treat me? Will you be yelling? Will you be listening if I have a problem? Will you make me feel like I can be anything when I grow up, or will you make me feel like I can't do anything right at all? How you make me feel....will be the number one reason I learn in your classroom.

But don't worry, I'll give you lots of chances to love me. I'll probably give you lots of reasons to be frustrated too, but not on purpose. I want you to love me, even if I am not sure what that means for you and me.

We are getting ready to spend a lot of time together and I hope all the time we spend will be as fun for you as it will be for me if you know what you are doing here. I am counting on it, because this school year might be the one that makes all the difference for me.

I think I love you already,
Your (favorite) Student in your whole class!

Friday, August 6, 2010

It is Christmas in the Early Childhood Center world! So many amazing things happened this week that will only enhance the experience of the children we touch.

First off, we had an amazing Leadership Retreat to kick off the year with our team. We have been studying the Professional Learning Communities model and worked through the ins and outs of how to implement that with our programs. There was great thinking, tough conversation and collegiality...who could ask for more from your core group of folks! Get ready for's going to be bigger and better than ever!

Then we spent the next three days in our Administrative retreat for the district. Not usually my favorite work time right before school, but this one was a real treat! We have been studying Phil Schlecty's work in his newest book Leading for Learning and had incredible conversation about what that means for each of us as we move away from bureaucracy into the learning organization model we all want for our kids. Our team of principals who led this took us down each path with patience and attention to planning, and we really moved together toward embracing this new paradigm through thoughtful consideration of who we want to be for our special students.

Everyone was dismissed at noon yesterday and told to relax...HA! We interviewed four candidates until 6 pm for our open teaching position. May not sound like the most fun in the world, but the last interview blew us away. You know, there are people in the world who MUST be doing this work because it is in their DNA! And we met one yesterday like that. I have interviewed literally hundreds of candidates over the years, but I have never fallen so in love with a teacher...just like I know the kids will too when she greets them on her first home visit and on the first day of school. Lucky kids! They will soar with her as their leader and we are so blessed to have met her. I was flying high when I got home!

In the midst of all that greatness....we gained a new bilingual instructional specialist - a free gift from the district! Our kids are 100% at risk and we limped through last year with a half time instructional specialist....we went from .5 to 2.0!!! The support we will have in place will break down barriers like never before. What an amazing gift.

I keep saying that this will be the best year of my career...and I can't wait to share the successes we have!