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The Fifteen-Minute Faculty Meeting and Why It’s Worth Trying


faculty meetingTeachers are busy. And you know what bugs busy teachers? Having their time wasted in long, disorganized faculty meetings.

Now before we throw out the baby with the bathwater, we should probably get something straight: Faculty meetings are not only necessary, they can be extremely productive. Too often, though, they drone on and on, covering policies, procedures, and pep talks that would be better suited in a weekly faculty memo.

While we can make the most of our time by preplanning, coming with a positive attitude, and respecting the clock, perhaps whittling down those hour-long faculty meetings into a tightly organized, 15-minute gathering, is worth a shot.

Why 15 Minutes?
15 minutes isn’t much time, that’s true, but there’s a reason for it—just like there’s a reason that    TED talks max out at the 18-minute mark: Time is valuable. Our attention spans are short.

The 15-minute meeting may be new to educators, but it’s old hat in the corporate world. In fact, Google has been doing it for almost a decade. Why though? I think Kevan Lee, a staff writer at Fast Company gives us a couple of convincing reasons to shy away from traditional, hour-long meetings:

  • Work expands to the time you schedule for it. In other words, if we set aside an hour, we’re probably going to use it, even if we don’t need to.
  • Second, 15 minutes is more than enough time if the meeting has a purpose, tasks are made and assigned, and you keep computers and phones out of the meeting room.

Then there’s the issue of attention span. Research suggests that the average attention span of adults is twenty minutes or less. Some reports even claim that, thanks to the Internet, satellite TV, DVR and smart phone technology, our attention spans have become considerable shorter.

While not ever faculty meeting can be paired down to 15 minutes, it is certainly something worth trying. To help you do this, and make the most of your time, check out this 2006 article in Bloomberg Business Week.

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What First-Year Teachers Should Know That Textbooks Don’t Show


first year teacherRather than give you a lengthy introduction about the fun and follies of being a first-year teacher, we’re just going to dive right in. While this list is by no means exhaustive, we’d like to share 5 things first-year teachers should know about the profession.

Your classroom is your first responsibility
Obviously, right? Well, it may not be obvious to everyone. When you’re the new guy or gal on the block, it’s tempting to sign up for any opportunity that comes your way so that you can prove yourself. Unless you were specifically hired to coach softball or organize the school plays, hang tight for the first year and concentrate on your classroom. While taking on after-school programs will most certainly lead to rewarding experiences, they can turn into a nightmare if you are still learning to teach.

You’re students don’t need you to be their friend
You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and even if you haven’t, you know from experience that love and intimacy are basic human needs. We all want to love and be loved—but look, you’re going to do a lot of damage when you try to earn your students affection by letting your classroom management slip. Just keep in mind it is easier to give than it is to take away.

Your students have friends—and let’s be frank, even if you’re still in your twenties, you’re older than dirt in the eyes of your students. Come to terms with the fact that you’ll never be as cool as they are. You are an authority figure and a leader. Act like one.

Content first, classroom management second
There is a caveat to what we said above. Classroom management is important, but it should not be your primary focus. If you facilitate an engaging classroom environment, challenge students, and treat them fairly, your classroom management system will develop organically. This is really just a long way of saying be proactive rather than reactive.

Learn Their Names
You’ll learn your students’ names quickly, but what about the custodians, the lunch room staff, the secretaries, and parapros? Learn their names, know what they do, know who they are and what makes them tick. Not only is this common courtesy, it’s just smart business. These folks will help you in ways that you couldn’t even imagine. Take our word on this.

Take the weekend off—at least most of it
First-year teachers are often surprised by a few things:

  • First, you’re not going to believe how much of your job is tied up in paperwork.
  • Second, the paperwork won’t end until sometime in June.
  • Third, you’re going to get really, really tired of it.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is create a realistic grading schedule. If you know you can only grade 10-15 papers in a night, don’t bring home a stack of 50; this will stress you out and lead to exhaustion. 

That said, you must—for your own sanity and the sanity of your students—take time for yourself. You’ll have to do some work on the weekends, there’s really no way around it, but most of your weekend should be for you—not your students. Take care of yourself. Know when to put away the books and papers and live for yourself.

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3 Bullying Intervention Strategies for Principals


bully interventionWe’ve seen the documentaries and heard the statistics. We know that bullying is a problem, but how do we stop it? We’d like to take a shot at answering this question by sharing three bullying intervention strategies.

Before we continue, it is worth noting that in order for these bullying intervention strategies to be successful, our teachers and support staff must all be on the same page. Divisions, skepticism, and lack of buy-in will jeopardize the success of these intervention methods.

3 Bullying Intervention Strategies for Principals

Create rules that are specific and enforceable
Many teachers proudly proclaim that they only have one rule in their classrooms: “Always be respectful.” We’ve heard principals say similar things about their schools.

This sounds nice, but what in the world does “always be respectful mean?” And how can you enforce something so general? You can’t!

Definitions of what it means to be “respectful” often vary from one person to the next. Students might think that spreading rumors about their peers on Facebook is perfectly acceptable behavior because it is done outside of school; we, on the other hand, would argue the exact opposite.

Rather than debate the nature of “respect” with students, circumvent the issue altogether by creating rules that are specific and enforceable. Students need to know what behavior constitutes “bullying” and what consequences will follow should they choose to engage in bullying.

Strengthen the victim
Teaching victims to become less vulnerable by not giving the bully a reaction can be effective, especially in one-on-one confrontations. “Fogging” is one method we can teach our students.

When a victim “fogs,” he or she acknowledges that what the bully says may be true—or at least seems true to the bully—without getting defensive and upset. To give you a sense for how fogging works, here is a short script created by bullying-prevention expert, Dr. Ken Rigby.

Bully: You have a great big nose
Target: True, it is large
Bully: It looks like a beak
Target: True, it does stand out
Bully: You are the ugliest kid in the school
Target: That's your opinion
Bully: You are wearing ugly shoes
Target: They are pretty old.

As students become more confident, teach them to ask the bully questions; this may surprise, and ultimately disarm, the bully.

You are such an idiot.
Target: Why do you think so? (Wait for the answer)
Bully: Everybody hates you.
Target: That's interesting. Why do you think that? (Wait for the answer)
Bully: You are always in the library at lunch time
Target: That's right. Why does that concern you? (Wait for an answer)
Bully: All those kids in the library are nerds
Target: It may seem like that to you.
Bully: You have no friends
Target: Well, that's what you think. 

If you’re interested in a few other “fogging” techniques, click here. 

Use the support-group method
This is a non-punitive approach in which the student who is engaging in bullying behavior is confronted at a group meeting. It is important that the facilitators (teachers and principals) interview the victim before this meeting and have a substantive account of the incident and evidence they can share with the bully.   

You may wish to include a number of students—those who have witnessed, but not intervened, on behalf of the victim—in this meeting. Give each student the opportunity to say what he or she will do to help the victim should the behavior continue. The facilitators must carefully monitor the outcome of this meeting and, if necessary, schedule a follow-up.

Photo credit: Eddie~S / Foter / CC BY

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5 Pun-Tastic Ways Principals Can Recognize Teachers


We always make it a point to honor our teachers during National Teacher Appreciation Day, but we know that trying to cram all of our appreciation into a single day can feel slightly disingenuous to teachers. Rather than wait for May to roll around again, we’d like to share 5 pun-tastic ways principals can recognize teachers throughout the year!

5 Pun-Tastic Ways Principals Can Recognize Teachers

Thank You for Making My School Year Bright
teacher appreciation 1
You’ll need three things for this pun-tastic teacher appreciation gift. Lemonhead candy, a light bulb jar (they are on sale right now for only $.99 at Hobby Lobby), and this free printable.

Here’s the Scoop: You’re a Sweet Teacher
teacher appreciation 2
Here’s another great teacher appreciation idea from Nothing But Country. You’ll need an ice cream cup and scooper, your choice of candy, a clear bag, and this free printable.

Thanks a Latte!
teacher appreciation

For this teacher appreciation gift, you’ll want to save one of your old coffee sleeves. You’ll also need a coffee shop gift card, cardstock, twine for your bow, and one of these free printables.

You are O-Fish-Ally the Best!
teacher appreciation

Swedish Fish are delicious, but you can make them deliciously pun-tastic by downloading this “O-Fish-Ally” awesome template here.

Orange You Glad It’s Friday?

teacher appreciation 5
In all our born days, we’ve never heard a teacher complain that it was Friday. End the week on a high note with this simple teacher appreciation gift. All you need are some orange slices candy, a bag, some card stock and this free printable.




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4 Simple Ways to Transform Your Faculty Lounge


faculty loungeTo call it a faculty “lounge” has always seemed funny to me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a teacher “lounging” in the faculty lounge in my life. Teachers have little free time—and quite frankly, most of these spaces are not ones in which teachers would want to “lounge” even if they had the time to do so.

Teachers will always be busy. Principals can’t do much about that, but we can transform the faculty lounge into a warm and inviting space where teachers can eat, grade papers and maybe, just maybe, do a little lounging.

Since you are probably on a budget, I’d like to share a few ways you can still transform your faculty lounge without breaking the bank.

4 Simple Ways to Transform Your Faculty Lounge

Crowdfund Your Makeover
Crowdfunding isn’t new, but it has definitely caught on. Actors and directors like Zach Braff, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, James Franco, and musicians like Amanda Palmer and Peter Murphy have all used it with great success. If they can use it to fund their pet projects, why shouldn’t you turn to crowdfunding sites to give your faculty lounge a makeover?

While some sites fundraise for any cause under the sun, others are specifically designed for education. Here is a list to get you started:

    One of the most striking features on the site is the little shopping cart icon in the upper right, called the "Giving Cart."  People who visit don't shop, they give.  They can peruse the list of requests from teachers all across the nation and purchase supplies, or donate funds to various educational causes. Ahem, your faculty lounge, for example!
    With, you register your classroom—or faculty lounge—and write about the things you need for it. Donors can search by location, school, teacher, etc
  • offers another platform for you to state your cause and begin collecting donations. It allows you to set up a simple page, state your cause, and connect to Facebook and other social networking sites to get your message across faster.
  • may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the other sites, but it does allow donors to make the smallest of donations—even as low as 25 cents—in the idea that every little bit helps. For school projects, nothing could be more true.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Educator Giveaways
No surprise, there are lots of educator giveaways floating out there in cyberspace.

School Outfitters, for example, is giving away $500 dollars to educators—no strings attached! All you have to do is go to their Facebook page and answer their weekly questions about classroom environments. Unfortunately, this contest ends on Oct. 24, so get movin’!

Here’s another one: West-coast based insurance company, California Casualty, is currently offering a $7,500 faculty lounge makeover. All you have to do is fill out this form.

These are only a couple I found with a quick Google search. If you don’t have the time to search for giveaways every day, just subscribe to Google Alerts; they’ll do the work for you.

Submit to one of HGTV’s Makeover Shows
This might be a longshot, but if you visit HGTV you’ll find a list of HGTV shows that are looking for properties to makeover. I’ve yet to see a faculty lounge makeover on the channel, which might actually work in your favor should you decide to pitch the idea to them.

faculty lounge 2
Don’t lose perspective: Small Changes Make a Big Difference
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to transform your faculty lounge into a warm and inviting space.

To the right, I’ve snagged a few photos of makeover projects that cost next to nothing to put together.

Photo 1: Canvas Shoe Organizer Transformed Into a Hanging Planter
Adding some green to your faculty lounge will brighten it up and help create fresher, cleaner air. Grow herbs, flowers, even tomato plants!

Photo 2: Rug Makeover
Rugs can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a fortune—in fact, you might not have to spend anything at all to get a new rug. Just paint your old one.

Photo 3: Architect Print Photos
Pictures and framed posters can be expensive, but you can create your own Architect Print at Staples for only two bucks.

Photo 4: Create a Chalkboard
Imagine a whole wall where teachers could draw, write messages, or share inspirational quotes with their colleagues. All you need is a little time, a paint roller and some chalkboard paint.

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Building Relationships with Your Custodians: Tips for Principals


principalsBuilding trusting relationships with our teachers and staff is essential to the general health and success of our schools. All principals know this—most work hard at it.

But what about the staff many of us consider to be “peripheral members?” Custodians, for example…how do we interact with them? And why is this even worth considering?

First, it’s just common courtesy! Second, custodians (like bus drivers) are often one of the first contact points students have with the school every day. They are cutting grass, clearing snow, salting walkways and moving through the halls when students arrive each morning. They are also around when students transition from one classroom to the next; they help maintain the sports facilities and often partner with student-athletes to prep the baseball diamond, the football field and the volley ball court. Third, custodians are not in the classroom or the main office; they are not dressed in formal attire. As a result, students often perceive them as “outsiders”—folks they can confide in because they do not pose an authoritarian threat.

As you consider your relationships with your school custodians, you might consider a few of these questions John C. Daresh asks us in his book, Beginning the Principalship: A Practical Guide for New School Leaders

Do I see custodians as janitors or care takers?
A custodian is much more than the guy (or gal) who walks around the building, picking up after everyone. To be sure, keeping a school clean is an important duty for the custodian, but as Daresh points out in his book, custodians are not simply janitors; they contribute to the overall well-being of the school. They are, as Daresh puts it, “school caretakers.

Something to ponder: Have you ever talked with a custodian to learn what responsibilities of his or her job are most interesting?

Do school caretakers know that no job is beneath me?
When my family vacationed, we rarely stayed in hotels, but when we did, my parents always stripped the beds and folded the sheets, wiped water spots off of the mirrors, and gathered all of our dirty towels and put them in a neat pile on the floor before we checked out. I thought this was strange and used to get after them for “doing the maid’s job.” But now that I’m older, I appreciate this gesture. Why did they do it? They simply wanted to show the maids—who were probably overworked and underpaid—that they were appreciated. They didn’t receive praise for their gesture; they simply wanted to make someone else’s life a little bit easier.

I think this example is applicable to how we interact with our school caretakers.

Let’s say that you’re walking down the hallway and notice a few pieces of stray scrap paper on the floor. The custodian is only a few feet away and is already sweeping, but you stop, pick up the papers, and toss them in the trash can. Why? Because it sends an explicit message to the custodian: No job is beneath you.

Do I rely on the school caretakers’ expertise?
You know a great deal about curriculum and instruction, staff evaluation, school site budgeting, and many other technical aspects of managing an educational organization. But you probably don’t know as much about fixing electrical and plumbing problems as your school caretakers do. Learn to rely on the expertise of your custodians and remember that, in addition to having these skills, they also know the idiosyncrasies of teachers and staff members. They know the neighborhood around the school. They may know the local politics and power groups. They also know the students and may even have experience working with students as helpers or part-time employees.

Gang members may not stop in to visit in the principal’s office, but theey are often quite open with people not necessarily viewed as a part of the authority structure of a school. You may be surprised at what you can learn from a few short conversations with custodians who see and hear a lot.

Photo credit: JSmith Photo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


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5 Reasons Principals Should Create Positive Faculty Memos


principalsIn their book, Motivating & Inspiring Teachers, Dale Lumpa and Todd and Beth Whitaker describe a study they conducted of more than 300 elementary schools in Indiana.

In it, they identified four schools with “more effective” climates and four others with “less effective” climates. Teachers at each of these schools were interviewed and asked to complete surveys about their school climate.

From this study, Whitaker noticed several key differences between the principals of effective and less effective schools, but one specific difference was this:

More effective principals had regular, positive interactions with faculty and staff—and they did this simply by putting together faculty memos every week. It is worth nothing that none of the less-effective principals produced positive faculty memos on a regular basis.

Interesting, isn’t it? If something so simple can play a role in improving the culture of our schools, perhaps we should take faculty memos a bit more seriously.

5 Reasons Principals Should Create Positive Faculty Memos

They’ll get you and your teachers organized
Principals must be many things to many people, but above all, they must be organizers. Putting together a weekly memo is one way to keep both you and your teachers on the same page.

In your weekly memo, include a calendar for the following week. List every sporting event, play, band concert, field trip, and meeting on this calendar. This will help you organize your own thoughts for the next week and give you the chance to think through the logistics of the events before they happen.

It will keep you from eating up unnecessary time in your faculty meetings
Teachers are busy people and nothing frustrates them more than having their time wasted. Rather than using faculty meetings to discuss policies and procedures, put them in your weekly memo instead.

Say, for example, that you’re having a guest speaker the following week. Instead of eating up valuable time during staff meetings, simply issue specific instructions—what time students should assemble in the gymnasium, what they should bring, where each class should sit, etc.—in your weekly memo. If there are any questions about these procedures, you can quickly clarify and move on to more important things.

It can be a place to share your own stories and experiences
As a principal, you may have spent years, perhaps even decades, in the classroom as a teacher. But because you’re not in the classroom every day, teachers may see you as an outsider who has no idea what it’s like to live and work “in the trenches.” Sharing your own teaching experiences in a weekly memo is one way to remind teachers that you do relate to their challenges, that you haven’t forgotten what it’s like to stand in front of thirty five students every day!

The weekly memo is also a good place to attach helpful articles. So that your teachers don’t have to read the entire article, provide a short summary that highlights the key points. Doing this accomplishes several things:

First, it reminds everyone in the school about educational research in a positive, practical way. People who do not have time to read the letter can still get the gist of it because of the summary. It also allows someone else’s view—someone other than you!—to be shared with the staff.

Seed Planting
We may have good ideas, but the less of a role teachers play in helping us come up with ideas, the less of a chance they’re going to adopt them. Use your weekly memos to brainstorm ideas or share your observations. You might, for example, write something like:

I happened to be in someone’s classroom the other day and I saw the most wonderful cooperative-learning activity taking place. The students were so engaged in the activity that…

Do you notice what happened in the statement above? Teachers who use cooperative learning feel reinforced and probably think you are talking about them. Teachers who have never heard of cooperative learning now at least have a seed planted regarding the terminology.

It’s a way to get your brag on
We all like to be recognized for our efforts. Why not use the weekly memo as a space to highlight your teachers’ accomplishments?

To do this, you might say something like:

I saw something neat in so and so’s class yesterday. I happened to be in the classroom, and she was using something …

The students in her classroom were so excited and engaged in learning. WOW! Are any of you familiar with this approach? If not, I highly recommend that you speak to so and so about it. I know she would be more than happy to tell you about the activity.

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5 Reasons Every Principal Should Create a Student-Friendly Office


principals student friendlyPrincipals have many talents, but when it comes to creating student-friendly spaces, it’s probably safe to say that teachers are leagues ahead of us. I’m speaking generally here, but just for the heck of it, walk into a teacher’s classroom. Look around for a minute. What do you see? Odds are that you’re going to see walls plastered with student art work, posters, a classroom library, games, listening stations, bean bag chairs, and the list goes on and on.

Now that you’ve done that, take a gander at the main office—and be honest with yourself: Is it warm and inviting? Is it a space that children want to be in? If it’s not, elementary principal Ross Cooper recently posted a blog that offers 5 very convincing reasons for principals to think about giving their main office a makeover.

I’ll give you the abridged version of his article here, but I think it’s worth revisiting Cooper’s original post.

Student-friendly offices are great conversation starters
Student friendly themes can be used to help start up conversation with students, which is especially helpful when working with learners who are more reluctant to open up. Students often believe that principals’ lives entirely contrast with those of their own— we want to do what we can to counteract this misconception.

They can also be a place to “escape”
While we want to do what we can to maximize classroom time for our children, an administrator’s office can help in providing them with a calm escape in times of need.

They can help us get in touch with our youthful side
Sometimes it can be difficult for teachers to view administrators as one of them. A student- friendly office shows teachers that you have not lost sight of the fact that the students are everyone’s most valuable asset, and that everyone is working together for their benefit.

They show that we are leading by example
No matter what form of change an administrator is attempting to inspire, it is always important to lead by example. Schools (particularly at the primary level) should contain classrooms and workplaces that promote student-centered learning, risk taking, and creativity.

They are more comfortable for administrators, too
Whether they want to or not, principals spend a good deal of time in the main office. Why not create an environment that is inspiring and comfortable for you and your students?



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Infographic Alert: 27 Ways to Spice Up a Faculty Meeting


Faculty meetings can easily become a drag to our teachers—and to us, too! While we can make the most of our time by preplanning, coming with a positive attitude, and respecting the clock, we’d like to share 27 fun and unconventional ways “spice up” your next faculty meeting.

faculty meeting

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5 Pun-Tastic Ways for Principals to Show Teachers Appreciation


We always make it a point to honor our teachers during National Teacher Appreciation Day, but we know that trying to cram all of our appreciation into a single day just won’t do! Rather than wait for May to roll around again, we’d like to share five pun-tastic ways for principals to show teachers a little appreciation throughout the year.

teacher appreciation

This idea comes courtesy of Sara over at Confetti Sunshine. Simply download the small “Donut I’d do Without a Teacher like You” printable (or the large version here), print it onto white paper bags, or 6 inch by 8 1/2 inch white paper glassine bags, and stuff with your teacher’s favorite donut!

teacher appreciation 2
Nothing compliments a well-deserved break like “breaking off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!” Grab some Kit Kats, download Jodie’s tag sheet here, print, trim, glue, and present to your most “break-worthy” teacher.

teacher appreciation 3
Our teachers, especially those who work with younger students, go through glue sticks like nobody’s business. Although there is no template for the label, Rachel walks you through the simple process of making your own here. 

teacher appreciation 4
Jamie, Jodie, and Jennifer’s APPreciated gift is perfect for your tech-savvy teachers! Inside the matchbook is an App Store gift card. For step-by-step instructions on how to put this project together, click here.


teacher appreciation 5


“You’ve Been the Highlight of My Year” is a teacher appreciation project created by Lindi Haws. All you need is a mason jar, some yarn, highlighters, and Lindi’s free printable.


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