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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?

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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: If you live in California, 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 2Don’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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Saying “No” Without Feeling Guilty: 3 Principles for Principals


principalsI recently asked a veteran principal if there was one indispensable piece of advice that he could give to new principals, what would it be? His answer: “Learn to say no.”

“No” is a simple word. It’s easy to pronounce, but ironically, it’s also one of the most difficult words to get out of our mouths! Why? Because “no” can disappoint, hurt, and anger those that we care about and sincerely want to help. 

“No” is a powerful tool…it’s also one of the hardest to wield. The next time you find yourself having to say “no,” consider three of Patti Breitman and Connie Hatch’s principles for saying no.

· First, saying no without guilt is much easier when it’s done in the context of generosity. This means being helpful and available to parents, students and teachers whenever you possibly can—in other words, when it won’t cause significant stress or inconvenience and when you can say yes without resentment. Recognizing the many things you do for others with a willing spirit, you’ll feel more confident and less guilty at times when you really do want to say no to them.

· The second principal of saying no: Less is more. The most powerful and effective “no’s” are the least complicated, but most of us have a great deal of difficulty saying no politely and leaving it at that. Many of us feel obligated to justify our “no” with a detailed—and often fictitious—reason. Yet elaborating is seldom necessary, and it leaves you on shaky ground. The more specific information you supply, the more likely the other person will be to:

a) try to figure out a way to “solve the problem” so that you can (and will) fulfill the request,

b) decide that your reason for saying no isn’t good enough and be miffed about it, or

c) call you out on your fabricated story!

On the other hand, when you make a statement like, “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to do that right now,” or, “I’m afraid I can’t give that the proper attention until after the New Year,” you sound clear and decisive. If the other person insists on knowing why, the burden of prying will be on him or her. When that happens, don’t fall into the trap of trying to come up with new, more creative excuses to satisfy someone who can’t take no for an answer.

·The third principle of saying “no”: not right now. If you know that you need time to make a well-informed decision, fall back on saying “not right now.” This will take the pressure off when you can’t figure out how to say no diplomatically or simply need more time to decide. If you want to defer the conversation or think on your answer, give one of these approaches a shot:

-I really appreciate your confidence in me, but from what I’m hearing you say, this will require my full attention. Could we revisit this topic once we get through Back-to-School Night?

-I’ll need to think about this some more. Give me some time to consider this and we can meet again and discuss this in more depth. So that I don’t forget, would you please send me a reminder email?

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



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Free Educational Technology Webinar Featuring Richard Byrne


educational technologyWe’ve been referring readers to Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog for a few years now and thought you might be interested in attending one of his free webinars on Tuesday, October 7 at 4 p.m.

In his webinar, Google Search Strategies You Probably Don't Know, But Wish You Did! Richard will talk about how you and your students can go beyond to search smarter and target just the information you need. Among other things, he will discuss how to get students to go beyond the first page or two of Google search results, as well as how to easily find scholarly works. Richard will also show how to locate public domain works and how they can be modified using Google Books. Come learn how to search faster and smarter

To register for the event click here.

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Identifying Bottlenecks to Student Learning


student learning“I’m teaching as well as I know how to . . . so why aren’t these students learning?”

I’m guessing we’ve all asked ourselves that question in our courses at one time or another (or over and over again, as the unfortunate case may be). As faculty, we are experts in our disciplines so we not only want our students to learn what we teach them, but we also want them to share the love we have for our fields. So why don’t they?

Of course, this is an enormously complicated question, with a number of different answers. Often there are bottlenecks to student learning that neither we nor our students might be aware of. Researchers at Indiana University have been exploring ways to break through these bottlenecks through a process called Decoding the Disciplines. Today’s tip explores that.

Researchers identify three types of bottlenecks, or obstacles to learning:

o Procedural bottlenecks. These occur when students do not master one or more steps in a learning activity, and that impedes progress (e.g., the steps involved in formulating a hypothesis).

o Epistemological bottlenecks. These occur when students do not understand essential aspects of how knowledge is constructed within a discipline (e.g., the nature of what “counts” as evidence to support an argument).

o Emotional bottlenecks. These occur when students have emotional or experiential responses to the discipline or subject matter that hinders learning (e.g., when students feel that their religious beliefs are threatened if they study or accept the concept of evolution in biology, or when students have learned that they have always “been bad at writing”).

The Decoding the Disciplines process can help professors discover ways to increase student learning. The process involves seven steps, designed as a general framework within which to think about increasing learning in a course.

The first step is to identify bottlenecks. This involves discovering where in a course many students consistently fail to master basic material. This involves not just identifying the type of bottleneck, but the specific obstacle to learning. For example, in a history course, students might have problems interpreting primary sources the way historians do (an epistemological bottleneck), as well as maintaining emotional distance from the subject (an emotional bottleneck) (Middendorf et al., 2008).

The second step is to define the processes that students need to master to get past the specific bottleneck . . . how does an expert do these things?

The third step is to explicitly model for the students the processes, operations, steps, or perspectives necessary to get past the bottleneck.

The fourth step is to create opportunities to practice these processes, operations, etc., in specific assignments or exercises, and give feedback on them.

The fifth step is to motivate students to move through these processes . . . what emotional obstacles interfere with this learning and how can they be minimized?

The sixth step is to assess student mastery of these processes to evaluate whether your intervention has been successful.

The seventh step is to reflect on what you’ve discovered in this process, and share with others what you have learned.  

In the final analysis, the “curse of expertise” sometimes prevents content experts from accurately anticipating the obstacles that impair the learning of novices (Hinds, 1999). The steps outlined here can help turn that curse into a boon.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about Decoding the Disciplines and read about specific disciplinary examples by visiting the Decoding the Disciplines web site:

Diaz, A., Middendorf, J., Pace, D., & Shopkow, L. (2008). The History Learning Project: A department “decodes” its students. The Journal of American History, 94, 1211-1224. doi: 10.2307/25095328

Hinds, P. J. (1999). The curse of expertise: The effects of expertise and debiasing methods on predictions of novice performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 5, 205-221. doi: 10.1037/1076-898X.5.2.205

Hinds, P. J., Patterson, M., & Pfeffer, J. (2001). Bothered by abstraction: The effect of expertise on knowledge transfer and subsequent novice performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 1232-1243. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.6.1232

Middendorf, J., & Pace, D. (2004). Decoding the disciplines: A model for helping students learn disciplinary ways of thinking. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2004, 1-12. doi: 10.1002/tl.142

Nickerson, R. S. (1999). How we know – and sometimes misjudge – what others know: Imputing one’s own knowledge to others. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 737-759. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.6.737

[Adapted from Dr. Claudia J. Stanny, Director, Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, University of West Florida; and Dr. Judith Ableser, director of the Oakland University Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.]

Photo credit: Will Montague / Foter / CC BY-NC

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