Friday, October 2, 2015

Student Attendance

It's an obvious fact - if a student does not attend school on a regular basis, he/she will not be successful in school. Even in situations with the student who is academically advanced and can still make very high grades regardless of the number of absences, the 90% attendance law maintains that this is not enough. The student still must attend school, unless excused for a valid reason, or make up the absences based on the school's determination. The million dollar question is how do we do the very best we can for each and every student to assist in their success regarding attendance? It's really very simple. Let each student know that when they are absent that they are missed. Just a simple acknowledgement is all it takes to bring many students to school who have a history of absenteeism. And the more people in the school family - students, teachers, administrators, faculty - who acknowledge the absence, the more likely the student will attend school more regularly. But what about the students who are not attending at all? At this point, beyond the daily phone calls, the time must be made for a home visit. It really doesn't take that much time, as 90% of the time no one will answer the door, but by leaving a note it has a huge impact. One of our new students this year was the exception. Eacg day when I knocked on the door, his brother was kind enough to answer with an excuse for his younger brother. After about five visits, my student's older brother started obviously feeling more and more awkward about my visits and finally said, "Look. I will do what I can to help you get him to school." I couldn't ask for more than that. His little brother now attends school daily and shared with one of our teachers, "This is the first school I've attended that anyone even noticed if I was absent." That's sad to me. I have been making home visits to students for many years. Yes, it does become tiresome when I have to repeatedly knock on the same door with seemingly zero progress. And, yes, there does come a point and time when I decide it's best just to quit the consistency of the visits out of concern of harassment, but the seed is planted and the growing often takes place over time. Many times, the student does come back to school and asks for a second chance. And of course, a second chance it granted. It is not up to us, as educators, to decide which students we are going to believe in; which students will finally be successful "this time". It is our duty to believe in each and every one of them until they have reached the age where a Texas high school diploma is not an option. Then, we should encourage a high school equivalency. But, that's another blog for another day. In the meantime, let's let our students KNOW that they are missed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Digital Age Leadership

Castleberry ISD is in the midst of the fourth annual Digital Age Leadership Academy. I am blessed that I have had the opportunity to be a part of this adventure for all four years. As a current administrator approaching my 10th year as principal and 18th year as an educator with the district, I can honestly predict that these few days will be the most beneficial and growing experience of any other professional development I encounter for the entire school year. With the district focus on the "Growth Mindset", I am certain that our district will show substantial growth throughout the upcoming school year as well as years to come. I am also very excited that not only have we been introduced to new apps, such as Piktochart, but we have also revisited a couple of activities from last year that I needed to update / brush up on. I highly recommend Symbaloo as your "one stop headquarters" for all of your bookmarks and online favorites. Weebly is yet another "must have" resource to easily build a web site. I am looking very forward to the morning presentations of each group's selection of a curation tool. Do you have a favorite?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Students Teaching Students with Infused Lessons

Last year in Castleberry ISD, each teacher taught a minimum of four infused learning lessons with the integration of web 2.0 websites. This year, teachers are continuing this practice, but with an emphasis on the higher levels of Bloom's. In an effort to continue to challenge our students, and to pull out their seemingly innate ability of technological genius, a campus goal is for each STUDENT to complete an infused learning lesson to teach to their advisory group. Students who feel comfortable in the process will have the opportunity to present/teach the entire school. If a student allows, this process will be uploaded to the district's YouTube channel. As the advisory class is also used as a time for our REACHing Out Parnership with Castleberry Elementary, guest speakers, and presentations, the process will be ongoing throughout the school year. Earlier in the school year, students learned about the different levels of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. They also worked on groups, each group being assigned a different level, and made posters explaining their particular assigned level of Bloom's. Next, they discussed their posters to the rest of their advisory class. Since this time, students have selected the topics, web apps, and summary of the lessons. Within each advisory group, each student has selected a different web app. The concentration for the first attempt is successful completion rather than a focus on the level. Miranda has selected, "How to Tie your Shoes" using Gliffy; Federico will use the web app Popplet for "Hair Spikage"; Rocio is focusing on "Do's and Don'ts about Fashion" using Biteslide; Clarita will use Prezi for "How to Bake a Cake" and etc. We can't wait to share the finished products!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Exciting Start to the New Year!!!

REACH High School is very blessed to have the support of Gary S. Jones, Superintendent, the CISD Board of Trustees, Central Office, Transportation, Food Services, as well as all the other campuses among the district. As principal of the campus, it is so joyful to get to work with a group of students who very much appreciate this support. The district consistently pulls together to provide all the best circumstances and resources for our students to take part in a successful learning environment. REACH High School is a "school of choice" and one that is not required by the State of Texas in any district. Our students, who are at risk of dropping out of school, have a chance to excel as successful learners and citizens. The fact that our shareholders can see the need for an alternative school within the district, regardless of the extreme expense, speaks volumes for the care the district shows to each individual student. CISD is taking REACH a step further in 2015 by offering the students' bus service to and from school. Tomorrow will be the first day the service begins and we are very excited to see the students take advantage of our new commodity. When I addressed a small group of students regarding our policy for 45 minute early release on Fridays for those with perfect attendance and the fact they would not be able to leave early, Robert replied, "No, you don't need to find another way to reward us for perfect attendance. Having a ride to and from school is reward enough!" All the other students agreed in unison. Thank you so very much CISD for your support of REACH High School

Friday, December 5, 2014

State Assessments

We are wrapping up a week of STAAR EOC Retest assessments on our campus. The testing began on the Monday following a week off for Thanksgiving Break and I heard many comments regarding the timing of the test. Why can't we test next week rather than this week? We tried to prepare our students with review items to cover over break. The teachers even indicated what area to work on for each particular day. Hopefully, the students were motivated enough to want to graduate to have utilized the resources. Is there ever really a good time to test, anyway? As I spent time in the testing room to check on the procedures and offer relief from test administration, my heart went out to the students. They looked so very tortured and many looked as if they could fall asleep with their eyes open. Is this how assessments should be? Shouldn't we find a way to make them fun? What if we offered some type of project based / real world application as a final indicator of success for the class? Many students make themselves sick over the stress of the exams. If only we could find a solution ...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Preparing Students for Life

As educators, we provide a much more important role in the lives of our students than merely from the educational, academic standpoint. We owe it to our students, and to society in general, to do everything in  our power to prepare students to be successful citizens in the social realm. By the time a student reaches high school, the lessons and morals that parents wish to instill in their children are already intact. At this point, there isn't much more a parent can say to a teenager that hasn't been said at least a dozen times before. Students, generally, may think their parents really don't know all that much about life. Teenager make their own mistakes and tend to look for role models outside of the home for inspiration. With all the negative role models that are exposed by media, it is more important than ever that educators stay strong in their beliefs and values.
Appropriate, professional relationships are essential in preparing students for the phase of life beyond high school. We owe it to our students to be consistent on our expectations and to follow through in our attempt to achieve these expectations. We have the advantage that parents do not. The students are required to give us their attention and listen to what we have to say. In addition, we are able to enforce particular values due to consequences the students may receive if the rules are not followed. It is our duty to exaggerate the norms and expectations of the outside world so that even if a student falls short of our social expectations, he/she will still hit the mark of society's expectations. As educators, it is our duty, and often times the students' last chance, for someone to truly make a difference.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Students as Digital Instructional Leaders

Digital learning is HUGE in the Castleberry Independent School District. Last year, the introduction of required digital infused lessons by all teachers was implemented into the district and the technological advances of all parties involved soared. As a principal, it was with great pride and joy that I had the pleasure of seeing, first hand, the genius of knowledge regarding technology in our students.

As the district goal, this year, is to establish an even higher level of learning from the students with the Bloom's Digital Taxonomy Model as a (continued) guide, I decided what better way for teachers to be knowledgeable with the model, inside and out, than to have the students become the teachers.

Thus, a schedule has been developed for during weekly advisory (between the community service projects and the guest speakers) for students to model what they learned last year from their teachers. Each student will use a different web 2.0 or 3.0 web and develop an infused lesson, directing the class/teacher how to participate. A rubric will be developed so the expectations will be noted from the beginning, and each participate in the class will offer positive/constructive feedback in a written format.

As REACH High School is an at-risk "school of choice" alternative accelerated high school with 45-50 students, initially, each student will only be teaching about 12 individuals. The rubric will indicate, for the brave ones who would like to take it a step further, to truly excel the student may choose to present the lesson in front of the entire school. Those presenting to the entire school may take it even a step further by consenting to be recorded for the district's YouTube channel.

Our students constantly amaze me, and I am very excited to see where our students will take us on our new journey.