Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The BEST DAY EVER: Why Every Principal Should Take Time to Substitute in the Classroom

One of the things I love the most about being a principal is the variety and uncertainty that each day brings. Today was definitely no different. I begin to receive the daily substitute reports at 5:30 am. Today's did not look promising-three subs short and no one available to call. By the time I got to school it was evident that I would be teaching full time today. And then I knew it was going to be the BEST DAY EVER!

I put on my principal coat to do morning duty and the word was already out on the street! Kids looked a little worried and parents had big smiles on their faces. Teachers reminded me to go to the bathroom now while I had the chance. I shifted gears when the bell rang and headed to the classroom. I had already taken time to drop off my bag of tricks and treats.
This hook awaited them as they walked in....


Now...I know that many of you have been wondering about the whole PIRATE thing. I promise you that I am not into the bad pirates--blood thirsty robbers. However, I'm crazy about a different kind of PIRATE philosophy. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess has been a definite game changer for me. I have literally read thousands of educational books, but this one is different. It's all about how to set student engagement through the roof! I use a lot of the ideas from the book through leadership, but I was ready to try them out on kids all day long. I was PUMPED UP and ready to go!

We started with a buzz of energy trying to figure out where the teacher could be and the shock of having the principal as the substitute. I used this to my advantage as I introduced the first step of being a PIRATE to the kids: Passion. We met together for a "Hornet Huddle" class meeting and I asked the kids to think about what they are passionate about the most. I wanted to do a little team building and have a chance for me to figure out how I could better teach them throughout my time in their classroom. It was so great to hear all of the different passions that the kids have, from reading to football to music and math. I also shared my passions with the kids. They loved to hear about my passion for learning, books, Hawaii and exercise. 

Our Passions

We finished up our huddle and off to specials. I gave them another teaser of what may be happening when they returned to the classroom and away we went. Whew! Time to refill the coffee and get ready to keep them engaged in learning! I wanted to be sure that if given a choice, the kids would WANT to be in the classroom with me. 

The morning was a blur as we did more team building activities and reading. I had the chance to sit and listen to each student read and ask questions to check comprehension. We also did some very fun vocabulary activities to learn our words through movement. I can guarantee you that everyone in our class definitely understands what vote and wait means for sure! 

Before we knew it, time for LUNCH! We took a minute to stretch out and do a brain break before we ate. Wipeout was the song that won the vote and we definitely showed off our dance moves. Heads cleared and stomachs growling, we were off to lunch! 

I scarfed down my food and a little more caffeine and I was back at it ready to go! Read aloud with a special book from Hawaii, which was a passion I had shared with the kids. Time for math....and I could tell it was going to be a tough sell. The after-lunch nap attack had definitely hit the kids. So we got moving. We counted like pirates, we added like pirates, we made ballpark estimates like pirates, we moved and danced and sang until we truly understood the math concepts. The best comment from this time of the day was..."Wow Mrs. Houf, you are like a real teacher!" Priceless!

The remainder of the day was filled with writing creative stories about why their teacher wasn't at school and sharing out to their peers. They gave specific feedback to each other and made revisions and can't wait to showcase their creativity with their teacher tomorrow when she returns. 
The Missing Teacher Mystery

Sharing our creative writing with our peers.

Giving feedback on writing.
We had a friend that had a bout of writer's block and he got very upset. It lent itself into our final activity of the day, The Power of Yet.
This was one that I brought in myself taking advantage of a teachable moment. Kids (and adults for that matter) seem to think that everything has to be perfect on the first try. We are working so hard at our school this year to promote risk taking and "thinking outside the box." Students took time to write down three things that they can't do....YET! We put together a short video of those here:

What an amazing day! It made me realize the importance of our school leaders staying involved and engaged in all that is expected of our classroom teachers. Every principal should take time periodically to sub one full day in a classroom. It keeps you grounded, reminds you to stay current in practices and strategies and helps build relationships with students. It was an exhilarating, exhausting, engaging day for this guest teacher. I truly tried to provide an uncommon experience for the students I was so lucky to teach and was definitely rewarded with UNCOMMON effort and attitude. It truly was the BEST DAY EVER!

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