Massachusetts Elementary School Principals' Association
MESPA Monday Memo
May 8, 2017
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Wednesday, May 10
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Shelley Burgess & Beth Houf
Authors of
From The MESPA Blog:
Failing Forward
By Mike Leander, Principal of the Athol Community Elementary School, Athol  
In this week’s post, Mike Leander challenges us to use the final stretch of the school year as a time to take a risk and try something new.  His risk this year was to jump into creating a genius hour for this staff – and experiencing some challenges along the way.

To read more, go to the MESPA blog at:  
From the Executive Director:
“I'm Givin' Her All She's Got, Captain!"
Last Friday afternoon, as our Board of Directors (all principals) gathered for its monthly meeting, attendance was lighter than usual due to conflicts with school events. The principals who did attend straggled in for our 1:00 meeting looking distracted or tired. Later in the afternoon, after the meeting broke up, talk of weekend plans centered on holing up and writing evaluations.    

Does this sound familiar to you?  Beyond a doubt, the end of the school year is challenging for principals.  Evaluations are due. Placement meetings are underway. Hiring for next year is in full swing. Student behavior regresses.  The number of school events increases exponentially.  It can feel like making the jump to “warp speed” with Scotty from “Star Trek” yelling in the background, “She can’t take anymore, Captain!”  

The problem is that when we hit warp speed, we in fact strain our engines.  Under the pressure of getting it all done, we may not be at our best.  As you prepare to enter warp speed, here are a few things to keep in mind (with apologies to “Star Trek”). 
  • “Beam me up, Scotty.”   People look to the principal to be present.  Jon Saphier talks about showing up where it matters most.  That becomes even more challenging at the end of the year. It is essential to look over your crazy calendar and set priorities for the week – and then revise it daily.  Be sure to include those events honoring a staff member or classroom culminating presentations.  That is, after all, the fun part of the job!
  • “Engage!”   People look to principals to listen to them. I, for one, know my skill level slips when things get busy, especially at the end of the school year. Many of the mistakes I have made were because I did not take enough time to listen to what someone was telling me – and let them know they were heard.   We may be juggling several issues at once, but, the issue someone is speaking to us about is the most important one to them.
  • “Boldly go where no one has gone before.”   As Mike Leander suggests in this week’s blog post, the end of the year can be an ideal time to experiment with something new. Try something different at a faculty meeting like Mike did.  Or support teachers who want to do so. A sixth grade team that that I worked with chose to end one year with a new interdisciplinary unit incorporating project-based learning.  The students responded positively to a change in routine, as did the teachers. After that first year, projects became a more regular part of the curriculum – and the unit remained as a way to end the year on a high note.
  • “I have been — and always shall be — your friend.”  Seek support and inspiration from colleagues.  After our meeting last week, as busy as everyone was, several board members went out together for an hour.  It felt good to unwind and share the load with role-alike colleagues and friends.    Or join this week’s Twitter chat to get inspiration from authors Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, as well as colleagues, for making your school amazing.
Whatever you do to cope with the end of the year, be sure to take time to savor the important work we do and to celebrate accomplishments.  “May the force be with you.”   (Oops, wrong sci-fi movie!)  “Live long and prosper!” 

Rick Rogers
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