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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

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The 2012-2013 school year was the most trying year of my 20+ years in education. Yet, I also had a great year and learned a ton. I don't intend to dwell on the past so if you want to get some background feel free to look at my posts starting in June of 2012 and follow my journey to today.

This year is going to be better. I want to say "It has to be better," but that implies that I was really miserable this past year and I definitely don't want to make any such implications. Instead here are some things that are in place in my school and my life that are going to ensure I can safely say the word "better."

I want to lead this off by saying that I am working for a pretty darn good leader. Believe me, I spent over 20 years around the military and I've had quite a few school principals who I've worked for since then. There are few who can compare. He is careful not to make rash decisions. He makes himself smart and enjoys surrounding himself with smart people. And he is open to change. I won't say any more because I don't want to sound like I'm sucking up. I don't have to - I'm almost old enough to be his dad.

But a year ago I was just meeting the man - in this capacity. I had already met him. I had also met his wife. I just happened to be his daughter's engineering teacher during the year leading up to us joining forces. So I wasn't sure what to expect. I only knew that, together, we were going to start an adventure into creating a school that was a member of the New Tech Network (NTN). We were also attempting to do something the Network had never attempted - putting PBL and the NTN culture together in a comprehensive middle school of over 800 students. Oh, and we were rolling out a 1:1 iPad initiative just for fun.

A year ago I didn't know my assistant principals. One was supposed to be one of our 6th grade teachers. She was going to be one of my PBL pros. A week after meeting her I found out she was moving up to be an assistant principal. Another I had met while touring and he showed me the work out facilities. When I met him he was the athletic director. Two weeks later he was moved up to be another one of the assistant principals.  The third I had only briefly spoken to and had no idea of his leadership and academic knowledge when the school year started. He was the only administrator left in the building from the previous school year.

This year we only lost one of the administrators. And she moved up to a bigger role in the district so who could blame her for leaving. Her replacement is coming to us from an elementary school where they did PBL and, best of all, she was an instructional coach. I've already been working with her and we are ready to kick some curriculum butt! Best of all, we now have someone else for me to play with. We now have a literacy coach. I've met her and she seems incredible.

Tomorrow is August 1st. This week we had nearly 40 of our faculty in for a two day PD on building school culture and, specifically, building a culture of collaboration. On Friday of this week our leadership team will be having a principal-led "retreat." All of our parts are in place. We have a common goal. We will tune our common vision. And we are ready to provide for our students. This year our students will find a more student-centered school with concrete boundaries and expectations. They will be encouraged and pushed and they will achieve.

I'm hoping that a year from now I'm writing - "The 2013-2014 school year was the best school year of my career."