Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why Adults Ignore Bullying in Schools

Friday, March 25, 2011

Teach the Common Core State Standards for Free!

Has your state adopted the "Common Core State Standards" yet? Thirty-eight states have already adopted the standards, and the other twelve won't be far behind. I have posted the CCSS on Facebook, along with strategies to teach each standard. Just go to my Facebook page to find all of the links:

You can also type "CCSS" in your Facebook search bar, along with the grade you want to see...for example "2nd"
A list of standards for 2nd Grade will appear, including Math standards, Reading standards, Language standards, and Writing standards.
If you "like" the page, updates will appear on your Facebook wall. If you hit the "info" tab, you will see a complete list of the standards for that subject and grade level.
Have I mentioned that all of this is free?
Check the standards out today!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New School Administrator Help

This article deals with starting the school year with a plan. "I HAVE a plan!" you shout...but do you really have a plan? Here's what can happen when you don't have a plan:

Teachers are unique creatures, meaning that no two are the same. What irritates and frustrates one teacher can be "no big deal" to another. Every teacher has a pet peeve that they are just a little crazy on to see what I am talking about.

Mrs. Jones hates backpacks. She read a article about a teacher in Idaho seven years ago who tripped on a student's backpack and broke her wrist. She read another article about a student who brought 370 Pokemon cards and 517 Silly Bands in his backpack, and dumped them out all over the floor and disrupted class. She makes students leave their backpacks outside in the hallway, where the contents of the backpacks are stolen by passing students. "It's the student's fault!" she yells..."the students shouldn't bring backpacks to my class in the first place! Everyone knows I hate backpacks!"

Mr. Zimmerman despises energy drinks. He complains to the administration on a weekly basis about kids intentionally getting "jacked up" on energy drinks and "bouncing off the walls" in his class. "Something needs to be done!" he shouts. Who is going to stand up to this epidemic!

I would go on, but you get the idea. Mr. Williams loses his composure every time he hears a cell phone go off in his class. Mrs. Weaver counts students tardy if they are not IN THEIR SEAT when the bell BEGINS to ring. Mr. Anderson is on a crusade to end the practice of letting students run in the hallway. The Math department will not accept late work, period! Mrs. Watson has a hissy fit if she catches anyone chewing gum in her class.

Because of the "Teachers Are Like Snowflakes" phenomenon, the leader of the building has a monumental task. The task is providing CONSISTENCY in the building so that everyone is on the same page. How in the world do you do that?

You have to have a building-wide list of policies to deal with all of these issues...there is just no getting around it. Where you DO have some flexibility is how you arrive at the list of policies. You can take a "top-down" approach by issuing a list of policies and procedures at the beginning of the year, or you can take a "participatory" leadership approach by putting together a committee to come up with the list of policies.

Once the list is made, teachers have to agree to enforce the policies as they are written...even though they may not agree with all of them. For example, a teacher should not let students listen to iPods in his class if the policy is "No iPods".

What you will find is that teachers will respect you for providing consistency...even if they disagree with some of your policies. Make sure to let teachers know that the policies can be changed if they have enough support (and a good rationale) for doing so.

Lastly, remember that any policy you put in place has to be justifiable to parents. Any policy that is not beneficial for students (or that you cannot in good conscience explain to parents) is not worth having.

Good luck!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Your Role as LEA Representative - Part 3

In this final installment of LEA protocol, I present a scenario where you - as building Principal - legally must be there as LEA at a student's IEP meeting. You cannot send a surrogate, lest you expose yourself to legal action on the part of the student's parents.

In this scenario, "Matt" has an emotional disturbance, and his IEP calls for 100% self containment in a special education setting. Additional staff are needed to maintain the safety and welfare of students and staff. Matt's parents are asking for a functional behavioral assessment, a behavior intervention plan (BIP), individual psychotherapy, recreational therapy, parent training, and a personal assistant. In this case, it would be very inappropriate for a building-level counselor to be an LEA representative for this IEP. Matt's IEP requires a much greater level of supervision than does Meredith's (see yesterday's post), requires complete delivery of the general ed. curriculum in a fully segregated setting, and requires a great deal more resources which a building-level counselor cannot commit. In this case, the building Principal and the Director of Special Services should both be in attendance at the meeting, either of which could be designated as the LEA representative.

As you can see, each IEP requires very different levels of supervision, curricular knowledge, and resources. Case managers must carefully consider each of these criteria as they select an LEA for their IEP's.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Your Role as LEA Representative - Part 2

Last month, I gave you three criteria that LEA representatives must demonstrate to be in compliance with the law during the IEP process. This month, I will educate you on how to use this knowledge to your advantage in selecting someone to "fill your shoes" at an IEP meeting. In a perfect world, the Principal would have enough time in his/her day to attend every IEP meeting. We both know that this is not realistic. I will give you two scenarios - one where you could send a qualified surrogate to be the LEA, and a scenario where you should be there in the LEA role:

In scenario one, a counselor may be an LEA representative for a student, "Meredith", who has a speech impairment. Meredith's IEP calls for 30 minutes of speech therapy per week. Criteria #1 (supervision) for this IEP requires nothing more than knowing who Meredith is, assisting with the scheduling if necessary, and alerting the building level or central office administration if any problems arise during the IEP meeting. The counselor is there to simply affirm that the district hires speech pathologists (which is obvious), that Meredith is going to be scheduled for speech therapy (also obvious), and that this is a very common, typical service for our district to provide. In other words, the obvious is going to happen; Meredith is going to get speech therapy. This fulfills criteria #1. Criteria #2 is also met by virtue of who a counselor is and what they do in a building on a daily basis. One does not have to be a curriculum specialist in order to fulfill criteria #2. A general knowledge of what goes on in the classrooms in the counselor's building is sufficient. Criteria #3 is also met because building counselors know that we hire speech pathologists to provide speech therapy to kids who have speech impairments. So, all three criteria are met. In this case, a building-level counselor can serve as an LEA representative. There are also other situations in which it might be appropriate for a building-level counselor to be an LEA representative. Each situation is different! My next post will outline a scenario where you as building Principal MUST be there as the LEA representative.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Your Role As An LEA Representative

This post will deal with Special Education, two words that can strike fear into the hearts of teachers and administrators alike. As an administrator, you are qualified to be an LEA Representative (Local Education Agency Representative) at IEP meetings to determine the accommodations and/or modifications made to a student's Individualized Education Plan. This post will give you input as to when you are ACTUALLY needed in an IEP meeting, and when you could send a representative to stand in for you (like a counselor, for example).

There are three criteria listed in the Special Education Standards Manual to be an LEA Representative. Like everything else in a public school, there is a "hierarchy of need" for an LEA Rep. This is the important part that must be considered when choosing who should be an LEA Representative and who shouldn't. A counselor may be an LEA Rep. in some cases. However, it may be very inappropriate for that same individual to be an LEA Rep. in a different situation. The greater the needs of the student, the farther up the hierarchy one must move to choose an LEA Representative. Counselors, process coordinators, assistant principals, principals, directors of special services, etc. can all serve as LEA Representatives under the appropriate circumstances. School-based mental health clinicians cannot be LEA Representatives in any circumstance.

The three criteria are as follows:
1. Is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education
2. Is knowledgeable about the general curriculum
3. Is knowledgeable about the availability or resources of the public agency.

Next week in Part 2 of this post, we will examine some examples of situations where you are needed, and examples of situations where you aren't! Don't forget to tell your teachers to visit to get the information they need to accelerate their development as teachers in your building!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coin Flip Discipline

As an administrator, I am faced with several student disputes in a normal day. My job at that point is to listen to both sides of the story, and try to steer the two sides to a peaceful resolution of the problem. If the dispute persists, I then try to determine who the aggressor is, and discipline that person to discourage him/her from starting trouble again. In most cases, it is easy to determine who the aggressor is...but what happens if both parties are the aggressor?

I was faced with this very situation recently. Two students (whom I'll call "Lucy" and "Ricky") became involved in a nasty give-and-take that lasted for weeks. The two students were involved in a boyfriend/girlfriend scenario that ended they live for nothing else except to bother, irritate, and upset the other. To make matters worse, they had several classes together...and drove their teachers crazy with their antics.

After the same episode played itself out several times, I decided to take a fresh approach to the problem. Instead of spending an hour or so listening to each student give his/her side of the story, then trying to figure out who was at fault this time...I invented a new way of dealing with the ongoing dispute. I called both Lucy's and Ricky's parents, and asked if I could implement "Coin Flip Discipline".

I explained to each set of parents my reasoning, and that this solution is my "last resort". Both sets of parents were also sick and tired of dealing with the problem, so they happily agreed to my solution. Remember, do not try this at home unless you have the blessing of BOTH sets of parents! You will get yourself into big trouble if you don't have the parents' approval.

When the two students are sent to the office, I pull a coin out of my pocket, and flip it. If it lands on "heads", Lucy goes to our In-School Suspension room for the remainder of the day. If the coin lands on "tails", Ricky spends the rest of the day in the In-School Suspension room. I explain this to the students, along with the warning that the coin has no is possible that the coin could land on tails four times in a row, meaning that Ricky would be in ISS four consecutive times, for example.

Coin flip discipline has been a great success! Instead of having to deal with Lucy and Ricky every day (sometimes several times in a day), I have not seen either of them in the office for three weeks! Lucy and Ricky have been overheard by their teachers working together to make sure that they are not sent to the office, where they face a 50/50 chance of spending the rest of the day in ISS. Now, they are not best friends forever by any stretch of the imagination, but they have found the motivation to work out their differences themselves instead of bringing me into the mix. Lucy and Ricky's parents have thanked me for my innovative solution to their problem, and they will be more likely to support me if I have to discipline their child in the future...and that's our goal, right?

Remember, this solution should not be used for ALL disputes, just ones that are ongoing and show no signs of letting up. Also remember that the parents need to be on board before the coin is flipped. But, when the time is right...the coin can be your friend!!