Thursday, August 11, 2011


A lot has changed since my last post:

1.) I accepted a new position in my hometown of Washington, Iowa.
2.) Another school year was closed out.  I love the enthusiasm and energy the last month brings.
3.) I put my house up for sale (still for sale)
4.) I moved my family into my parents basement until our house sells.
5.) Most of you know the effort it takes to learn a new position in any position you take.

All these are excuses that I have created to make myself feel better for letting my blog go dormant for three months....

Well, on to the meat and potatoes of my thoughts from the last few months.  I'm not sure how many of you have left a position of leadership, but it is a very surreal experience.  When you pump your blood, sweat, and sleepless nights into a school, it is crazy to all of a sudden have the thought that you will no longer be living out the love for the school.  Hard to explain but such an unusual feeling. 

Fast forward to hiring someone for the job you have devoted your life to, and that really gets interesting. One quick revelation was that a school leader is somewhat insignificant.  We just aren't as cool or important as we think we are.  The new leader is hired, you show them the ropes, and you go off on your way.  You will always hold the experience and the people close but you know that the sun comes up for the next school year.  Let me say it, "THE SUN DOES NOT RISE OR FALL ON WHETHER OR NOT THE  PRINCIPAL IS THERE."  Why is this important:

Creating shared leadership and vision is essential.   
You may leave, but many staff will stay forever as well as initiatives, values, and culture.  I need to get better at:
1.) Creating and fostering teacher leadership.
2.) Simplifying initiatives so they are sustainable and clear.
3.) Limiting initiatives to make amount manageable to sustain.
4.) Ensuring the values of the school are shared by all, what makes the school tick.

Just remember as you start the year, it isn't all about you...and if it is, good luck sustaining a lasting school environment.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Classroom of Teachers

I have been an ostrich long enough!  Quite frankly, it is time that I pull my head from the deepest depths of the sand and prepare my leadership to meet the needs of the life a teacher must face each and every day. It definitely seems that education is changing, and will continue to change at an exponential rate, I'm starting to realize I better start to actually prepare myself for this!

It is not possible anymore for a teacher to graduate college, receive a teaching certificate, and use those skills to teach for the rest of their life.  WHAT IS EXPECTED OF TEACHERS RIGHT NOW IS HUGE....THEY HAVE SUCH A BIG ROLE! I can't express my appreciation for the many great people that choose to teach despite the constant changes they know they will face, the high expectations, and the continuous improvement necessary. Therefore, out of the respect I have for teachers, I better be able to be a support to them!

So, I really started to sit down and analyze how this MUST affect my leadership. How do I need to shift my leadership to help assist teachers through this huge shift in teaching practice.  The following are things that I have honed in on that I believe I must do to help support my entire staff as we start to take steps to becoming a 21st century staff focused on quality teaching for kids: (Note: your focus may be different based on the needs and abilities of where your staff is at)

1.) Create an environment of learners:  As mentioned above, we no longer can receive a set of skills in college and expect that to get us through for many years without diving into new learning.  I have used an analogy with my staff that they need to think of themselves as students in a class.  Some students are high flyers, some middle of the road, and some in need of some intensive services.  It is fine that they are at all different levels, just as it is fine that our kids are at all levels.  These are the things that aren't alright:

  • If the teacher (myself in this case) doesn't give their students every opportunity to learn and succeed.
  • If a student doesn't dive into their own learning and give their best effort.  
2.) Understand the staff and continue evaluation: I will definitely need to start to make a note of which teachers need that intensive support and actually devote time to meeting those needs.  We expect our teachers to do this to kids, why don't we do this to support teachers? 

3.) This is about Quality teaching....not technology:  In Iowa, where I am located, my plan is to use the 5 characteristics of effective instruction to guide our learning and focus:
  • Teaching for Understanding
  • Assessment For Learning
  • Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum
  • Teaching for Learner Differences
  • Student-Centered Classrooms
4.) Hiring people that are lifelong learners: I might redesign some questions to ensure a future teacher will be a continual learner.

Despite what seems to be a common thought with non-educators, our teachers are doing amazing things. But, complacency isn't an option, we must continue to push ourselves a little bit more each year.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Time Crunch


Time...time...time.  Something we all just can't find enough of.  If you don't even have time to read this, scroll down to the bolded paragraph below for the meat and potatoes.  As the year is winding down before summer break, tasks seem to increase and the amount of time in the day seems to fill up faster.  This dilemma is a constant tug of war for me so I thought reflecting on it would make for a perfect blog entry.

   I'm currently sitting in my office, 9:25 p.m., trying to catch up on paperwork tasks.  My wife and kids are already in REM sleep, so what better time to get some stuff done.  I'm sure I am not alone but I often sit and have to prioritize the following:

-- Time spent with students
-- Time spent doing managerial tasks in office
-- Time spent assisting and supporting teachers and support staff
-- Time spent with my family....who are they? :)

  For those of you who feel this tug of war between where to divide your percent of time in a day, I want to urge you while at school to take time for #1.  It is so easy to stray away from student interactions....teacher evaluations, administrative meetings, newsletters, emails, PD planning, the list could go on and on.  Don't get me wrong, you have to be diligent in managerial tasks but don't forget what excited you about education in the first place...the kids.  If you don't already, spend one day fully immersed in student connections...go out to recess, eat lunch with students, walk the halls, go through classrooms, greet kids at the front door, high five students walking out the doors at the final bell, listen to them read.  Whatever you do, go make connections for the day.

  Is there a magical percentage of where you spend your time?  I don't think so, but I hope your percent can grow in creating relationships with your students.  So, manage your tasks but more importantly, manage your time wisely.  I plead with you to get out of the office...the work will still be there, and go enjoy the kids walking your halls each day!

Adam Miller


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flipping Out

If you read my first blog post, you understand that I started the year with a mission to incorporate technology throughout the school year.  Purchasing a Flip Camcorder was my first step in utilizing some facet of technology.  It has been one of the best purchases that I have made as an educator to date.

It isn't surprising that many parents don't read every newsletter or communication that is sent home.  Parents are often too busy to stop, sit down, and read a two page newsletter.  What they will do is watch videos that are sent directly to email or posted on the school's web page.

What is a Flip Camera?

--A hand-held camera/camcorder that is simple to use.  You literally just have to turn it on, point it at whatever you would like to record, and push the red button.  That simple!
--A flip camera has a USB that can be directly plugged in to your computer.  This allows you to have the easiest download you could ever ask for.  Honestly, easiest download ever.

Here are the best uses I've found for the Flip:

1.) Email short videos to parents.

  • Parents love having the opportunity to be a mouse in the corner.  Sending a short video email is a great way to give parents a sneak peek into the learning going on in their child's class. They've really enjoyed these daily communications
  • As you make your way around the building, you will most likely see kids doing some great things in each classroom.  Quickly get your camera out and catch them 'in action'.  
  • Later, download the videos to your computer.  The Flip software has an 'email' button and you simply push it and type in the address you would like to send the video to.
2.)  Compile your videos into a movie.
  • What do you do with all the videos that you take?  Compile all of them using some movie editing software (iMovie, Flip Movie) and post them on your website.
  • This is another great way to draw parents and community members to your website as well as show them what is going on each month in the school.
  • Here is an example of a video in which you can quickly show what is going on in your building:

3.)  Teacher evaluation tool.
  • Taking them into the classroom during formal observations can be a great tool to use during your post observation meeting.  
There are so many ways you can use this handy little cam!  Post more ideas or uses if you have expertise in using a flip.  One thing is for sure, parents love to see their children in action.  This gives an opportunity to open your school to parents and the community.  It really is an awesome communication tool.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Cannonball....Jumping Into Social Media and Technology

    No more excuses.  I'm finally done expecting the tech experts in our building to take care of the 'tech stuff' while I sit on the sidelines.  I'm sure some of you can relate! For my first blog post...ever....I think it may be best to lay out who I am, where I have come from, and anything else that may shed some light on future posts.

    #1- I write like I speak.  However I say something in my head, that is how I type it.  It doesn't necessarily impress English teachers.  I most likely wouldn't get the highest vocabulary and word usage grade, and I wouldn't pass many rubrics in grammer usage either.  But, hopefully you can follow my 'deep' thoughts:)

    #2- I'm in my 3rd year as an elementary principal (Preschool-fifth) in Iowa.  I grew up a farmer's son and still have that in my blood.  How does that relate to this blog?  Well, I spent more time with pigs than computers.  Couple that with my age (29) and you can see where I fell through the technology cracks.  I remember fumbling through the internet at school for the first time in 8th or 9th grade.  I only had time for sports when high school hit so I never dove deep into technology.

    #3- Starting the 2010-2011 school year, I would have considered myself adequate with technology.  My respected elders would consider me very savvy with technology because I can run a computer with great ease, manipulate the main features with technology, and use help functions with great regularity (which makes me look a little better than I really am).  But, I continually witnessed all the amazing resources out there and wanted to give it a shot.  Excuses, perceived lack of ability, and time all played a part in the constant delay of 'getting started'.  Currently, my beautiful wife of 5 years is asleep, my 2 children are quiet in bed, so why not start now?

    A quick glimpse of my family that is sleeping soundly.  My boy is 2 years old and my daughter is 2 months old in this photo.

    #4- I made some 'Technology Goals' at the beginning of the school year:
    • Start up a twitter account and actually utilize it. Check.
    • Figure out how to use a Mimio. Check. Needs Improvement Though.
    • Dive into iPads.  Check.  Beginning phase still.
    • Start a blog. In the process.
    #5- Goals for my blog:
    • Learn how to create extra pages. Check. Not going to publish until I've got it all figured out though.
    • Embed pictures and videos in each page and post. Check, see picture above with lovely wife and kids.
    • Create a drop down menu in some of my headings tabs.  I've tried...Not even close on this one.
    • Come up with cool gadgets that meet my needs of this blog. Not there yet.
    #6- Last but not least, my priorities in life are as follows: My faith, my family, and then everything else.  I'm not saying that my love and passion for education and specifically my role as a principal isn't important.  But, I am pretty upfront with saying that it doesn't hold a candle to my love and passion for Christ and my family.  Therefore, this blog not only will be a reflection of my professional love but also my personal passions as well.  Hopefully, you enjoy the mix of personal and professional stories and resources in this blog.

    #7- Oh yeah, one more thing.  I am a proud member of a wonderful organization...Outreach Outdoors.  I love hunting, fishing, and pretty much anything outdoors.  Outreach outdoors connects the outdoors with spreading the word of Christ.  If you are interested, feel free to check us out at: 

    I'm looking forward to this time of reflection.  I have enjoyed learning from others and gaining resources through so many wonderful bloggers and professionals.  A global learning community is possible...I'm so excited that I've stepped off the diving board.