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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Talking About the Workplace with Kids

A student suggested that I write about what I do during the school day.  I think it's so important that kids know what adults do in the workplace.  I encourage parents to share details of their work day with their children. Middle school is a good time to start talking to our kids about the actual work we do in order to provide them with a nice life.  In five years, our 8th graders will be going to college (yikes)!

10 Things the Principal of Esperero Does

1.  My mornings begin with bus duty and the announcements.  Student Council members and others join me for the announcements in my office.

2.  I read and answer my emails and phone calls.  

3.  I spend time in classrooms . . . the more, the better.

4.  I meet weekly with our counselors and ISS coordinator and various teacher groups (special education team, data teams, grade level teams). I also meet with parents. 

6.  I meet with students in my office. :) 

7.  We plan our Wednesday Professional Development meetings for teachers (with Ms. Castro and our PD committee).

8.  I write teacher evaluations, reports, the principal blog and newsletter. I write best in the wee hours of the morning.  I try to read as much as possible.

9.  I supervise student activities (mornings, lunches, afternoons and throughout the day).

10.  I provide and receive feedback. 

Students ask whether we work on the weekends here at Esperero.  Honestly, my week goes better if I work 1/2 day on the weekend, simply because I can work uninterrupted. The Marshall  Report recently described the job of principal as "the job of interruptions." During the week, it's absolutely true.  I am rarely alone on the weekends; teachers are often here, too, working in their classrooms.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Finnish Lessons

  No, I am not learning how to speak Finnish.  Finnish Lessons is the title of Dr. Pasi Sahlberg's book about the Finnish Education system.  Dr. Sahlberg is Director General of CIMO (the Ministry of Education) in Helsinki, Finland.  He was at the Doubletree Inn in Tucson on Saturday for FinnFest, where I heard him speak.  

    The Finnish educational system is a world leader in educating students who achieve at the highest levels, particularly in math and science.  I was amazed at the striking differences in philosophies between the Finnish and American systems. You know I like lists, so here's another one. 


1.  Students learn well and there are very small differences between schools' performance levels. 

2.  Students don't start school until the age of 7.
3.  Only 10% of the applicants who apply are accepted into teacher education programs, thus giving Finland the most competitive teacher education program in the world.  (Dr. Sahlberg noted that it is "harder to get into the teacher education program for primary teachers than it is to get into medical school in Finland.")
4.  School lunch is free for all students in Finland.
5.  Education in Finland is not standardized but customized to each student's needs.
6.  About 50% of all students in Finland will have received some sort of sort of special education, personalized help, or individual guidance by the time they leave comprehensive school at the age of 16.
7.  Students do not take tests until the end of their time in comprehensive school (at age 16).
8.  Teachers are given great autonomy in the classroom but are also given access to large doses of ongoing and purposeful  professional development.
9.  Everything in Finland's education system is geared toward servicing the needs and well-being of each individual student.  At school, if students don't feel well, there is access to medical help, dentists, and counselors.  
10.  Teachers stay in the profession, for the most part, for life.  The public trust in teachers is high.  

     Finland did not always have such an efficacious system of education.  School reform took place in 1970 and emphasized providing an excellent education for all children.  The form and content of curricula would focus on developing the "individual, holistic personalities of children."  The Finnish "re-visioning" of education was the foundation for establishing the future of the country. 

   Dr. Sahlberg encouraged us to look at the Finnish education system as a springboard for educational reform. The success of their system of educating students who are global top academic performers can be attributed to child-centeredness, rigorous and
selective teacher training programs, and the overwhelming support of the Finnish public for education. Finnish Lessons takes a refreshing look at educational reform and how it fuels a high performing society by investing in human and social capital.

Here's the link to Pasi Sahlberg's blog: