Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ten Years Later- Back to High School

As many of my cohort know I was very worried about my high school internship.  I fretted most of the summer and much of first semester about my move from the comfort of the elementary to the unknown of the high school.  I had grandiose ideas built in my head of the trauma I would endure during my adjustment, but I have found that I love working in high school.  I have enjoyed every minute of my time there so far.  I love the predictable nature of the days.  I enjoy the small talk with the students and I am so blessed to be paired with two wonderful mentors.  They are teaching me each day how to treat each situation with care and concern.  I find myself hating for the 3:03 p.m. bell to ring and looking forward to the start of another day.  I am learning to lead.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

We are back on campus and glad to have a break from our internships.  It was great to get back together and bounce our ideas about our sites around.  We jumped into the semester head first with new text books ready to learn a bit more about how we as future administrators need to act, think, and respond.
We presented Fish and our findings in a story board presentation.
We did what we do best...socialized and ate at one of the Oxford restaurants, the South Depot Taco Shop.
Kim even brought her book to dinner.  It was so great to be back together the Elite Eight? The Fab Five? The Fuddy Duddies!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ben’s Blog #2

The summer of 2011 will long be remembered in the Jackson Barlow’s household as “The Long, Broiling Summer Before Bryson.”  Our son Bryson Wyatt is due in one month, and the heat is never abating.  The instant I step out the back door to let the dogs out at five A.M., the heat slides over me like a warm, wet tongue – it is oppressive and stifling, and I wish that my very pregnant wife could get one moment of respite.  The two weeks following summer term were blurs of activity: new house, baby showers, family visits, unpacking, settling in.  On a steamy, sultry Sunday afternoon, Jeannie and I stood exhausted on the front porch, waving goodbye to the last of some visiting family as they departed for Kentucky. 

  The next day – one full week early, unbeknownst to me until later on – I walked into the dusty, box- and furniture-filled main hallway of the otherwise very empty Brandon Middle School, and I began a new role, in a new school, within a new student age range, amongst new faculty.  As I sit typing in my small office above the library, the floors are a shiny and stately gray, the boxes and furniture are replaced in their respective classrooms, and the hallways are filled with human activity of the teaching sort.  My first weeks have been about change vast and specific, immediate and gradual.  
My evolving role in the two schools in which the internship places me is a complex matrix where I am a subordinate, yet a superior, an outsider, yet a school leader.  My mentor provides me with many opportunities to grow and learn, teaches me policy as he shapes it, includes me in managerial decisions as he disseminates authority to his APs, and shares his critical views on personnel issues as they arise.  I have asked question upon question each day, pouring through the reasoning behind decisions made, scrutinizing the rationale for decisions to be made.  I have teased questions from assessment data, spying glimmers of opportunity for the elusive “growth piece.”  Transitioning from the classroom to the administration team has been challenging for me in terms of viewpoint – I am unaccustomed to the crucial interplay that occurs between administration team members concerning the daily goings-on in schools. 
My relationship with the staff at BMS is changing already.  In the first weeks, a few teachers came by, straightened up desks and tables, placed posters on walls, readied lessons and materials for the first few days – but there was hardly interaction.  On Convocation Day (district-wide faculty meeting), we met as a staff in the afternoon, and I was able to meet and chat with many of them.  The English staff enlisted me to aid in the creation of an updated technology permission letter; the ICT teachers asked me to help them instruct teachers in our new grading and attendance software operations.  I am becoming known as a source of information and as a solution-seeker. 
I think the most noticeable change has occurred in the scope of my power to affect necessary change.  For instance, I helped a recommended student enroll in the Academic Intervention Program, and his mother called me personally to thank me for my efforts.  The simple act of completing this paperwork and moving this boy into a situation in which he could succeed was a powerful reminder to me of the control administrators possess in their schools.  In another instance, I joined a Language Arts meeting to help adjust the direction of lessons as teachers aligned with Common Core Standards.  Fortunately, our administrator has his eyes on the road ahead, planning for next year’s results with adjustments this year.  Going through the process of directing policy while accounting for culture is a delicate operation, and I am thoroughly enjoying this rare opportunity to learn within a culture built upon effective teaching and learning.  Tomorrow is Open House, and the kids come Monday.  PC11 part two has begun in earnest. 

 Rankin County Convocation at the Hinds Community College Muse Center – the bands greeted teachers as they walked in like a Pep Rally setting.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Patrick's Guest Blog

            Well, I just finished my interview paper and believe that I can now close the digital folder that encompassed my contributions to the conversation that was EDLD 671.  I watered my herb garden and went in search of my remote and that perfectly broken-in spot on the couch.  I never got there, though, I just couldn’t shake the sense that I’d forgotten something . . . which brings me to this, and you.
            Rest assured, it was never my intention to be the anchorman in this relay of thought.  I spent enough time running track to know that that position goes to the strongest runner on the relay team; these days I only run if I need to break up a fight between students!  You can be certain that the level of prowess I’m about to demonstrate will be no greater.  Then again, sometimes an exemplary team develops such a massive lead that the anchorman only needs to not blow it!  So here I go.
            I don’t know about the rest of the cohort, but I’ve never seen three weeks pass by so quickly.  I haven’t even recovered from the shoulder injury I got on the challenge course and our summer session is already over.  Although I must admit, when the computer in room 313 started trying to restart itself on the last day of class exactly as it had on the first day of class and at no point in between I began to wonder if actually no time had passed at all.  I love and fear that kind of symmetry, but that’s a different topic all together. 
I gained a huge amount of knowledge in that room and loved the opportunity to learn from Dr. Davis and solve leadership dilemmas with PC 2011.  Living in Oxford, however, was less exciting than I imagined it would be.  Some of the best times took place outside of town, at Dr. Davis’s farm, Dr. McClelland’s pool, and, of course, back home in Marks.
            Needless to say, it’s nice to be home.  I’ve been at work each of the past three days, supposedly to avoid the distractions offered by Netflix and my DVR in a desperate effort to finish all the coursework.  Now is the time to laugh . . .  all you educators know that school is no place to avoid distractions.  The staff has acclimatized to my return and over the past three days I’ve gotten more and more referrals and less and less accomplished.  But the course work is done now.  Tomorrow I can sleep in.  Or maybe I’ll go to school to avoid doing dishes.  Or because there’s coffee there.  Or because just it’s great to be back!  I already find myself analyzing things differently through the lenses of shared decision-making or informal organizations.  PC has been a wonderful opportunity, and I can’t wait until the next course.
      And with that I’ve finally crossed the finish line.  My thanks to anyone who persevered through these preceding 498 words and got there with me!
Patrick is the Dean of Students for Quitman County Schools


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lessons from PC3

1.Sometimes you need a swimming pool.  After kicking some midterm behind, Dr. Mac sent us swimming.  On that day, poolside relaxation was just about the perfect reward for a job well done.  We felt valued…and just a little bit special.  The same will be true of the rewards we offer our students, teachers, parents, and community members.  As we all know, a sticker or smile goes a long way.  On that day, it may just be someone else’s swimming pool.
             2.    Some common sense rules are pretty self-explanatory.  Thanks to Cody’s pain-staking notes, I was able to copy this gem from Dr. Davis.  As our case studies have shown, educational administration will offer few right answers. Easy decisions will be even harder to find.  So when a right answer or easy decision actually presents itself, take a skeptical moment, and then thank ya Jesus (or Buddha, or God, or some amorphous sense of religious obligation) that you finally found one! 
            3.     When life gives you lemons, love your llamas.  There have been a few tense moments, differing opinions, and competing voices in PC3.  Could you really expect less of a small group of highly effective, occasionally neurotic, and generally exhausted teacher-leaders?  Hopefully not.  These very moments offer invaluable insight into our chosen career.  As administrators, we will encounter practices we don’t understand, beliefs we don’t share, and mindsets we can’t even fathom.  Nonetheless, we will have to love those llamas…if only long enough to learn from them.    
           4.    We are elite?  True, we eight were selected out of approx. eighty applicants.  True, we were accepted into a flagship program for educational leadership and administration. True, Dr. Davis thinks we may be the best cohort yet—although we think he probably said the same thing to PC2.   BUT mistakes will happen.  We’ll laugh about some as we get caught in turnstiles, become lost in Guyton, and acquire false Patricks.   However, some mistakes aren’t funny.  Those ones are called bad decisions—or “bad things,” depending on the Kimism.  And when (not if) we make those bad decisions, that’s when we’ll really need each other…to listen, learn, and maybe even laugh.
          5.     Educate. Learn. Coach. Collaborate.  We’ll be talking about this one for the next twelve months, so I’ll summarize.  Basically, it forms the “much is required” element of our “much is given” education.  But if you have any lingering questions, feel free.  Just please not now, after midnight, when I still need to finish this ELCC standards reflection…
Written by Courtney Van Cleve former teacher in the MS Delta

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Question is

This morning I went for a run with Ben.  We ran up University Avenue and around the Square and over to the cemetery.  It was 5:45 a.m. on the first day of summer, and the pale pinks, and yellows and reds kissed the tops of the oak and pecan and pine.  The rolling hills carried on their backs the marks of all the years that had come before today.  I found myself thinking about all of those markers that stand above the hopes and dust of hundreds of years . . . the old exhausted dreams, the young and barely realized. 

What was left?

Were those dreams lived out, or were new dreams settled for?

The old toppled and sunken headstones spoke through the moss and lichen that clung tenaciously to the granite.  They spoke of life and those old dreams.  And, as the sun reached its cool hand under the limbs of the cypress, I thought of my dreams.  The early ones I had as a child of being Batman, the more recent of being a teacher, and the most recent of being a school leader.  The one that brought me here.  I realized that they were all the same.  My dreams and the ones that lay under those stones.  They were all more a part of the sun than of the earth in which they lay.  The dreams of something better.  The dreams of what could be.  Some were lived out, and some, for whatever reason, were discarded long before time ran out. 

I am reminded of something an old farm hand, Asalon, told me when I was a boy in Panther Burn.  He said, “Morgan, days are funny things.  The more you get the more you want.  Which works out for most people. Until the end anyway.”   
* Written by Morgan Dean, former English Teacher in the MS Delta.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ode to the Residential College

Ode to the Residential College

Excited to move in?  I’ll say we were not.
But since we must, we gave it a shot.

A room to ourselves was a nice surprise,
As we spent our time becoming more wise.

Vanities- private baths, much different now,
‘Hardwood floors, fridges, a definite wow!

Back in the dorm one more time.
A do over of college- how sublime.

The rooms stay muggy and humid all day,
At night still damp and cold they stay.

Surprised we were when the laptops were given,
This college life is one worth relivin’

Nights filled with laughs in to the late,
We laugh because our studies can wait,

Wait for us -to have dinner talks together,
Talks about life, love, and even the weather.

The Fab Four or Five were always ready to go,
The FuddyDuddies kept things on the down low,

Our group is a mix from all walks of life,
Rich districts and even some filled with strife,

We’ve collaborated together night after night,
In study rooms equipped with energy efficient light,

We were given a challenge within the first day,
To stay focused-stay fit- keep our weight at bay.

It seems the stressed have a tendency to eat,
We can’t fall fat- we are the elite.

The mornings began early with runs, jogs, and walks.
And as educators do we talked, talked, and talked.

Our classes were spent learning the theory,
Powerpoints were watched till eyes were bleary

Our home away from home welcomed our naps,
Each night we read until we collapsed.

To our cars we went when the fire drill sounded,
As workloads increased and even mounded.

The faces have changed since freshman year,
I’ll cry nonetheless I’ll shed a tear.

When the day comes to say our goodbyes,
And laugh and remember that time really flies.

The Barksdales-thank you for all you have done,
Tuition, books, opportunity- we really have won

Our challenge is great as we are sent out,
Will we succeed? There is no doubt.

Our professors have faith in what we can do,
We are the brave, the proud, the few.

This cohort of teachers- friends we have made
These ties to each other will never fade

Our year is planned and placements set,
A dorm stay a month is what we will get,

We’ll come back to campus for class time and again,
Kim, Courtney, Matt, Felicia, Patrick, Morgan, Cody and Ben

The coursework will change and even get rough,
Balancing life can sometimes be tough,

Our Mission-To take Mississippi Leadership by storm,
And remember our days and nights we spent in the dorm.

Felicia Pollard