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Jason Bednar
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Tracy, I absolutely agree with your wishes for staff development. While the gulf may not be as wide at elementary ages, my classroom teachers still have need for strategies to reach a variety of skill level readers. Our building leadership team has significant control over staff development offerings and as principal I fully support their ideas. The district organizes some of our larger events, but the goal is the same.
Toggle Commented Nov 1, 2007 on Interesting Research on Reading at LeaderTalk
I am very interested in reading these comments. I don't mean to interrupt, but I will say that my past as a high school English teacher and present as an elementary school principal give me an interesting viewpoint for this conversation. While standards are important, in what ways can we prioritize skills to meet those standards. For example, we have science and social studies standards in Illinois. Those already take a back seat to reading and math under the guidance of NCLB. Now, we are using the RTI model and providing reading interventions for students not hitting the targets linked to ISAT and PSAE success. Within the limited hours of the elementary day, we have to pull students out of some curricular area to create time for those interventions and science and social studies are the most frequently targeted times. Now, these interventions are intended to supplement regular literacy instruction and help students improve their reading comprehension. Without skills in reading, the lessons in science and social studies cannot have the same impact anyway. Does this plan devalue science and social studies as we prioritize reading as the foundation for all curricular lessons? The ISAT in 4th grade assesses science, so that is a concern as we pull struggling readers out of science for additional literacy instruction. We are doing it because we know that these students cannot succeed in elementary school or beyond without the skills to read with fluency and comprehension. What I don't know is how this fits within the discussion between Scott and Tracy.
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2007 on Interesting Research on Reading at LeaderTalk
Meadowlakes has not always been in the AM session of kindergarten at Owen. On top of that, it may have fluctuated in the years Meadowlakes attended McCarty. We wanted to move walkers to the morning in an effort to make the bus ride a little easier for kindergarten. We feel that having the larger group of bus riding kindergarten students returning home with older peers is a good approach. This also makes our mid-day bus routes a little easier to manage.
Scott, I too posted something on my blog in response to your call. I see the need for fully engaged staff development in this area as my district has often had the drive-by approach to technology-related staff development forced on us by our relative size and perceptions of time. I hope to be part of the force leading this change for my students and hopefully the entire district. http://principalblogs.typepad.com/jasonbednar/2007/07/wiki-opportunit.html
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I am excited about the opportunity to change the way my building staff looks at technology as an occasional use item and make it as essential as core academic skills. With a finite budget(some might say small) for my building, I am trying to sell staff on using Wikis as a starting point.
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When we put this together, we looked at several factors. Each neighborhood has different numbers of incoming kindergarteners and we need to have a balance between AM and PM. We also wanted to have our walking students in the AM session this year. I have absolute belief in all three of our kindergarten teachers. All three are fantastic and will provide wonderful experiences for all students, so I do not think this change will deny any students an excellent classroom experience. Meadowlakes has the largest number of incoming kindergarteners, but is not large enough to have a session filled only with students from this neighborhood. We could not partner Meadowlakes with Westglen or Brighton Ridge due to the size of those groups. With the effort to have our walking students in the morning, we had to move Meadowlakes to the afternoon.
I find it ironic that I work in a wireless equiped building, but the principal laptop has no wireless card. I know that our district has a higly restrictive network access policy. As I have posted elsewhere, I would like to see a widening of access made available everywhere and an expansion of open-source text materials. Nearby Aurora, IL is working to make a city-wide WiFi network available soon.
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Scott and Karl, I truly appreciate the updated version. I showed the original to my staff at a faculty meeting in February. Their stunned silence following the showing was unexpected, but still confirmed my feeling that this was something they needed to see. That showing has helped us as our conversations have had links to global educational issues and the equity training our district is undertaking. I will certainly show the new version at my first faculty meeting this fall. Thanks.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2007 on Did You Know? 2.0 at Dangerously Irrelevant
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I think this idea has value, but it was Tim's comment that really sold me. As textbook adoption inevitably falls off schedule due to a variety of reasons, at some point, I think most students use an outdated textbook. Using open source materials allows a more rapid redevelopment as events change the world and can involve students and faculty in the change process. I think this could also help with facilitating more problem-based learning opportunities and interdisciplinary ideas as staff are given professional development and principal leadership.
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Just to clarify an inaccurate statement above, no students were threatened with expulsion for playing. Because we are a unit district serving students age 3-21, most disciplinary policies must be written broadly enough to cover that wide range of ages.
Toggle Commented May 26, 2007 on Looking to the future at Owen Overview
Dave, you obviously know I am in your district and dealing with the same drive towards data. I think my comfort with data analysis is at least part of the reason I was hired for this job. I have been trying to find that balance for teachers that you describe. For me the conversation tends to revolve around the data as an identifier of need. When we talk about how the data might not match classroom performance, I hope this gives teachers a chance to look again at the student. We have found new strategies for helping kids and I think my staff is growing more comfortable with the use of data. It's a slow process because changing from the artistry perspective is not an easy move. I try to emphasize that it is not a move away as much as an enhancement of that artistry with a focused eye. Does that make sense?
Toggle Commented May 24, 2007 on The "Art" vs. The "Science" at LeaderTalk
I have been thinking about this question for some time. I really like Alice's quadrant approach. Looking at my role as an elementary principal, I can see all four quadrants on a seemingly daily basis. It is good motivation for me to aim for the upper left and help staff move from the upper right to the left. I see many things that I would put in the upper half, but parents would put in the lower half. Bridging those divergent views is one of the more challenging aspects of my role, but it necessary for staff development and community outreach.
Toggle Commented May 16, 2007 on Well? What's your answer? at Dangerously Irrelevant
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As an elementary principal, I see definite value in trying to anticipate the needs our students will have as they move into college and beyond in 2014 or later. Seamless integration of available technology is absolutely essential for our students. I struggle with finite budgetary opportunity at the same time I try to expand our available resources. As the elementary portion of a unit district, we often receive the high school's old computers when they get upgraded units. That does not make it easy for elementary buildings to begin the process of incorporating this into our regular lesson plans. That being said, I continue working with my community to bring opportunity to our building. I just don't know how I can keep up with the advancements without more financial resources that just don't seem to be available.
Toggle Commented May 16, 2007 on Key question at Dangerously Irrelevant
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Our kindergarten classes also use center times as part of the less structured time intended to give students a chance to develop independent work and socialization. We definitely value the social and emotional development of our students and our teachers do an excellent job of caring for each student's complete development. Our rule regarding PM kindergarten arrival is only due to potential injury issues if the children are running around without school supervision. As our kindergarten children move into 1st grade and its full day schedule, parents will be able to see how our team puts an extra recess in during warm weather for students to have creative play time that also re-energizes students in the afternoon.
Toggle Commented May 15, 2007 on Planning for 2007-2008 at Owen Overview
This is my first year as an elementary principal and this balance has been one of the most elusive concepts in my world. It's actually been harder to find than additional funding to acquire needed interventions. Brian, I would tell you not to feel guilty. My kids get sick and I need to be there for them. I've done more promoting of this to my staff than I have applied to myself, but I am working on that. Good luck with your efforts. We're human too.
Toggle Commented May 14, 2007 on Balance at LeaderTalk
The school has ample opportunity for students to engage in play while being supervised by school employees. In addition to the lunch/recess time, many teachers take students out for extra recess to help burn off some energy and to help students focus throughout the afternoon. Unsupervised play is never allowed as it is our responsibility to make sure students are safe. We have discussed the other issue you raise several times. At all times, doctor notes are absolutely followed by our health assistant and nursing staff. That is among their primary responsibilities and they have never failed to live up to those expectations.
Toggle Commented May 13, 2007 on Planning for 2007-2008 at Owen Overview
Many of the rules you have concerns about have been in place since the building opened. I would encourage you to look at the parent handbook regarding SmaRt Choices on page 15. I did not change anything on this chart and it has been consistent since the day the building opened. We ask students to walk on the playground for safety reasons. We allow students to run on the field, and ask them to walk on the abrasive surfaces of blacktop or mulch. These rules are not to prevent children from having fun; they are meant to ensure our students have a safe play environment.
Toggle Commented May 7, 2007 on Planning for 2007-2008 at Owen Overview
I appreciate the feedback and will hopefully have many parents help as this plan unfolds through the summer and fall. In regards to the variety show, it will be returning for the 2007-2008 school year, but it may be on a biennial rotation rather than an annual one.
Toggle Commented May 7, 2007 on Teaching students about the world at Owen Overview