Sunday, January 25, 2015

TOMMIE SAYLOR: Touching all of the bases

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
-- Vince Lombardi

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

Booster Shot Time! Every now and then we need to rededicate ourselves to the ideals that have created the climate that fosters our success, now is such a time. 

It is easy this time of the year to let our guard down and absentmindedly fail to take action when action is required.  We get tired.  It is like hitting mile 13 of a marathon race. You are half way through, but you still have a long way to go before it is over, and your starting to question if you will be able to make it. 

At this juncture every one of us must make a decision. Do we continue to trudge forward, oblivious to the erosion of standards, or do we wake up, rededicate ourselves to the ideals that have made us strong and fortify our standards creating a climate where all students can be successful. I choose the latter.

ID cards: Make students properly wearing their ID cards an issue. If a student approaches you and they are not wearing their ID card, bring it up before they have the opportunity to address you.  Do not answer their question, give them a pass, or allow the conversation to get past the issue of them not wearing their ID card until such time as they fix the problem. 

If you see a student without their ID card properly displayed around their neck, approach them and ask them to comply.  You don’t have to be mean or rude, but at the same time don’t be compliant with them openly violating the rules. The ID card may seem like a small thing, but as I see it, if we pay attention to the small details, the larger ones will take care of themselves. Simply, if we don’t make it an issue, they will not comply, and failure to comply is unacceptable.

Hall passes: I have said it a hundred times: PLEASE FOLLOW ALL PASS PROCEDURES! 

This includes not allowing a student to have a pass if they do not have an ID card properly displayed around their neck, no passes the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of class, and making sure the student signs out when leaving your classroom as well as signing back in when they return.  I’ll be honest, I’m finding way too many students in the halls minutes, even seconds, after the tardy bell rings with a pass, some without an ID card.  This makes me think, is this the students fault or the teachers?  Students who are out in the hall for 20 to 30 minutes day after day, hour after hour, once again makes me wonder just who’s at fault. 

I expect the students to “push the envelope”, but at the same time, I expect the staff to push back making sure all rules, procedures and guidelines are followed. Once again, if we don’t make it an issue, they will not comply, and failure to comply is unacceptable.

Hall sweeps: I am concerned when I do not see many teachers in the halls between classes. I understand that you can’t be in the halls between every class. But out of 58 professional teaching staff members, I should be able to see at least one or two in each hallway (a total of 10 to 12) between every hour. 

Your presence alone can prevent many issues from manifesting themselves.  Simply, you may need to coordinate with each other to insure that the halls are properly supervised during passing.  This small act will make a big impact on the culture, climate, and overall safety of our students.

Grades: We must keep up on our grading.  If you are not posting grades at least weekly then you are wrong!  It never seems to fail that at Parent-Teacher conference time, or at progress report time, I get phone calls from parents upset because their student’s grade went from an A to a D, or from a B to an E overnight. 

Some of us are not posting grades in a timely manner, and often by the time a parent finds out that their student is missing seven assignments it is too late to fix the problem, not to even mention the educational gap that now exists in the students learning.  We can’t expect parents to help us out in the educational process if we are not reporting accurate and timely information to them.  This also hurts us internally, we have paraprofessional aides and lay personnel specifically hired to assist struggling students, yet if they do not know a student is struggling, or that they are missing assignments then how can they help? 

Essentially, if you are not posting grades in a timely manner, it makes your job harder, your colleagues job harder, our support personnel’s job harder, and my job harder.

Parent communication: I am often amazed by how many teachers are afraid to call parents.  As I stated at the beginning of the school year, parents can either be our biggest ally or our worst nightmare, often depending on nothing more than timely and accurate communication.

If a student is doing poorly in class, call early and call often.  If a student is misbehaving in class, call early and call often.  If a student has missing assignments, seems to be distracted in class, appears depressed, call early and call often. Yes, we have our students grades posted on-line, but this is not enough. By calling so you could be saving a child’s life, changing a child’s life, and if not anything else, you are letting them know that you care. Essentially, when in doubt, call home.

Remember, success is something that is made, not found.  It is the culmination of hard work, sweat, planning and organization, precise execution, heart and passion for ones duties.  It is time to “clear the fog” and charge forward with enthusiasm, the same enthusiasm you once held when first you heard the words, “you got the job.”

There is no “i” in team.

What starts here, changes the world. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.

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