Friday, September 14, 2018

Professional Knowledge is Power

Many of you have heard me talk about the book Qualities of Effective Teachers by Dr. James H. Stronge I know that some of you may be a bit tired of me talking about it, but this book is probably the best book that I've ever read professionally. It affirmed so many beliefs that I have preached to teachers over the years. It also gave me some new and great ideas to help teachers.

The first quality that Stronge believes effective teachers possess is Professional Knowledge. He defines this as, "The teacher's understanding of the curriculum, subject content, and students' developmental needs as demonstrated by providing relevant learning experiences." He also breaks Professional Knowledge down into the following three parts:

        - Content knowledge - Knowledge of one's subject matter

        - Pedagogical knowledge - Knowledge about teaching in general

        - Pedagogical content knowledge - Specific knowledge of how students learn a subject and how
          to teach a particular subject area, like math

I have met some teachers who have an undying passion for and a strong knowledge of their content, yet couldn't teach their content. Others are solid at teaching English, but could never teach science. Finally, there are those who had potential to be great teachers, but didn't take the time to master the subject that they teach. Effective teachers know their content (and are passionate about it), have an excellent grasp of pedagogy in general (and can mentor teachers from other content areas), and have mastered the teaching skills that are specific to their content.

Upcoming Events

17 - iPlan Day at MHS in am and WGMS in pm
17 - 7th FB vs. Finley, @ MISD Stadium, 5:30
18 - Faculty meeting, 4pm, library
18 - 8th FB vs. Finley, away, 5:30
20 - VB vs. Corsicana, home, 5:30
22 - Volleyball @ Crowley A Team Tournament
24 - Pep rally schedule, pep rally at 3:30
24 - 7th FB vs. Alvarado, home, 5:30
25 - 8th FB vs. Alvarado, away, 5:30
27 - PTV luncheon (Hibachio), all lunches, CBI room
27 - VB vs. Red Oak, away, 5:30
28 - End of 1st Six Weeks

Friday, August 31, 2018

Camp Youbelonghere

Planning and executing a quality August staff development can be a daunting task for any principal. Years ago, I learned to let go of the reins a bit and utilize the creative ideas of our awesome teachers to help me plan this. Since I made that decision, our staff development has been more engaging, more relevant to what our teachers want to learn, and has been way more fun! I would advise any principal to do the same.

During this year's staff development planning, our leadership team chose a camp theme. Our activities centered around summer camp, fittingly titled Camp YouBelongHere. Just like real camp, we did archery, fishing, crafts, ate barbecue, and even made s'mores. We also studied articles written by educators that focused on making school more like camp.

This week, a random student named Addison approached me after school. With no prompting from me, she told me, "This school is so fun that it feels more like a camp." I was floored. I immediately directed her attention to the cafeteria walls where the camp posters were still hung from staff development. I let Addison know that she completely made my day with her observation about our school. She affirmed what many other students have said before her: that WGMS is an engaging, fun, and exciting place, just like camp.

I'd say our staff development two weeks ago was a huge success.

Upcoming Events
3 - Labor Day - No School!
4 - Canvas Parent Training, 7pm, cafeteria
5 - Faculty meeting - T-TESS and SLO refresher
6 - Volleyball vs. Waxahachie Finley, home, 5:30
7 - Cupp's Kids
10 - Progress reports for the 1st 6 weeks go home with students
10 - 7th Football scrimmage vs. Frank Seale, away, 5:30
11 - 8th Football scrimmage vs. Frank Seale, home, 5:30
11 - Faculty meeting - Dr. Ledbetter, library, 4:00
13 - Volleyball vs. Kennedale, away, 5:30
14 - Choir Lock In

Friday, August 17, 2018

Saving the Struggling Learner

As we begin as new school year, I am proud of the work that we have done at WGMS to help our kids who struggle academically. Our teachers and paras work diligently to help students who need help, be it by remediating just one skill or closing a year's worth of gaps. We work with our kids before school, during the school day, and after school. We offer GCS, Accelerated Math Instruction, Accelerated Reading Instruction, Communities in Schools, STAAR tutoring, and tutoring with our teachers in order to meet our students' needs. Teachers meet with students who fail classes. Principals meet with those same students. Our SAT process has vastly improved in recent years as we have focused more on the struggling learner.

As I mentioned earlier this week in our staff development, I wonder what would happen if we sought out and kept a close eye on our kids who struggle starting on the first day of school instead of waiting for an entire six weeks? What if you knew who your struggling learners were on day one? In order to inform you of this, our awesome counselors will be providing core teachers with a list of your students who have SAT folders. In addition to this, you will know who your Sp. Ed. students are on day one. You can see how your students performed on STAAR this past spring by checking AWARE.

Imagine that you are teaching a swimming class full of students who are at various levels of ability. Some can swim well, others can barely dog paddle. You would never ask all students to dive into the deep end without learning the abilities of your students. The same goes for the classroom. I encourage all of our teachers to do their best to know who their struggling kids are at the beginning of the year and to get them the help that they need. Let's not let any student sink this year who needs our academic help!

Upcoming Events


20 - First Day of School
20 - Soda Social, 4pm, library
22 - Faculty meeting, library, 4pm
28 - Meet the Teacher, 6:30 - 8:30
29 - School pictures taken in S.S. classes, cafeteria stage

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Teacher Appreciation

As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, I can think of no other vocation that deserves as much gratitude and respect as teachers. They do so much for their students, making an impact that lasts a lifetime. Teachers give so much of themselves on a daily basis, with more and more being demanded of them each school year.

Flashback to the days of the past, when teachers taught mainly academic skills, like the 3 R's - reading, writing an 'rithmetic. They focused on teaching. Fast forward to today, where teachers not only teach, but also serve as a friend, counselor, role model, mediator, and sadly in some cases, parent. It seems like more "stuff" is added to teachers' plates every year.

Despite all of this, our teachers continue to do incredible things for kids. It warms my heart to hear our students talk about Walnut Grove teachers and instructional paras. They constantly say that the teachers here are friendly, helpful, and caring. They brag on our staff for being better than the teachers they've had in other school districts. I often here them say, "I love my teachers." Our parents echo that same sentiment weekly via nice cards, email, and comments.

All of this affirms what I've believed for years: that hiring great teachers is the most important thing that a principal does. Teachers are the people in the school with whom our kids spend the most time. Teachers perform the two most important functions of a school - educating students and loving them. I may be a bit biased, but I believe that WGMS teachers and paras do these two things better than anyone. We love and appreciate our teachers!

Upcoming Events

14 - STAAR Math, 6th and 7th grades; 8th Math 2nd admin.
15 - STAAR Reading, 6th and 7th grades; 8th Reading 2nd admin
16 - STAAR Science, 8th Grade
16 - 6th and 7th Grade Field Day
17 - STAAR S.S., 8th grade
18 - Comp day - no school
21 - 8th Grade Field Day
22 - Elem. tours - Baxter @ 8:45, JAV @ 10:15
22 - Robbie Cornelius retirement reception, 4:15, library
23 - Elem. tour - Longbranch @ 10:15
24 - Staff vs. Student VB Game @ 3:00, pep rally schedule
24 - Soccer vs. FSMS, girls home, boys away, 4:30
25 - 8th Grade Dinner Dance, 7-10pm
28 - Memorial Day, no school
29 - 7th Period Exam Schedule, 7th period exam @ 2:20
30 - Exams periods 1, 3, and 5, exam schedule, early release @ 1:55
30 - WGMS Staff Awards, 2:30, cafeteria
31 - Exams periods 2, 4, and 6, exam schedule, early release @ 1:55

1 - Work day

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Best Kids Anywhere...

I know that I say it a lot, but I firmly believe that the kids of WGMS are the very best. I've told them this countless times. In fact, I've said it so much that the kids themselves can complete my sentence. Whenever I say to them, "You are the very..." they always finish with the word "best."

Our students never cease to amaze me with their kindness and thoughtfulness. Just this week, I have observed examples of how considerate they can be. When Clay, a new student showed up this week, students went looking for him during lunch to make sure that he had someone to sit with. Also this week, I received numerous cards and verbal thank you's from students for buying new mike stands for choir. Earlier today, two 8th grade girls came to me to pitch a program that would assist other adolescents with depression. This past weekend, while on a choir trip to San Antonio, I overheard a man in our hotel lobby talking about our kids to his traveling companions. I heard him tell his friends these are the best behaved kids he had ever seen.

Are our students perfect? Heck, no. They are just like most kids - they like to horseplay, they can be inappropriate, they sometimes say bad words -- they are human.

If you've only worked in MISD, then you may not understand just how good our kids are. Ask anyone in our school who has worked in other districts. Or, better yet, ask a new student. I feel confident that they will affirm my belief that our kids are the very...

Upcoming Events
30 - NJHS Induction, Main Gym, 6:30

4 - Choir Dessert Theater, 7:00, cafe
5 - Choir Dessert Theater, 1:00 & 7:00, cafe
7 - Teacher Appreciation Week!
7 - Progress reports go out
7 - Soccer vs. FSMS, boys home, girls away, 4:30
8 - Algebra I EOC
8 - Faculty meeting, library, 4pm
9 - STAAR training, 4:00, library
10 - Teacher Appreciation Luncheon, CBI room, all lunches
11 - Aim for Success assemblies, 7th science classes, library
12 - 8th Grade Party, 11:00 - 3:00, Southern Cross Ranch

Friday, April 13, 2018

Life Moves Pretty Fast...

This week I had the honor to speak to the 2018 graduating class of Heritage High School at their Senior Breakfast. It was wonderful to see so many former Wildcats, all grown up and ready for the real world. So many of the kids have changed drastically since their time at WGMS, having grown taller and looking more like adults than children.

As I mingled among them as they ate breakfast, I was blown away by the way that these former Wildcats remember WGMS. They shared many fond memories of our school with me. More than anything, they asked about our teachers and staff, wanting to know how various individuals were doing. Many of them shared stories with me about how much specific staff helped them while they were students here. I was reminded in that moment of  the powerful impact that our teachers, coaches, instructional paras, and office staff have on our students. One senior told me, " WGMS just gets into your blood. You never forget it if you went to school there."

As I spoke to the seniors, I was reminded of just how fast life goes. It seems like yesterday that these same young people were little 6th graders, entering Walnut Grove for the first day of school. Perhaps Ferris Bueller said it best when he stated, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." I hope that this year's seniors will take the time to do just that.

Upcoming Events

16 - 6th Six Weeks begins
20 - 22 - Choir trip to San Antonio
21 - Elementary Math Pentathlon, here, 8am - 4pm
25 - Administrative Professionals Day
27 - MHS bound 8th graders tour MHS, 10am - noon
28 - 6th Grade Band at Hurricane Harbor

Friday, March 23, 2018

Wildcat Wrestler

Even though he just recently turned 12 years-old, WGMS 6th grader Eli Biermann has already established quite a name for himself on the wrestling mat. Eli wrestles in a nation-wide league called USA Wresting and recently won first place at The Panhandle Nationals. This tournament is one of the major contests in the sport, and it includes youth wrestlers from all over the country. Beirmann competed in the 75 pound class, which is his normal weight class. At that meet, Eli met fellow wrestlers from Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. To win the championship, Eli defeated a wrestler from Wesley, Texas, about whom Eli says, "He was a lot bigger than me and was a year older than me. I was able to beat him by getting my mind in the right zone and doing what I had to do."

Eli has been wresting since he was five years-old. He first became interested in the sport when his dad, Wade, shared with Eli his own experiences in the sport. Wade Biermann was a two-time Texas High School Champion at James Bowie High School in Arlington. Eli's interest grew even more once he began to compete in the sport and win trophies.

Next year, Eli will be wrestling as a 7th grade Wildcat on the WGMS team. Regarding that subject, Eli stated, "I want to encourage other students to try the sport and make our WGMS team great." Eli also plans to wrestle in high school, in college (as an Iowa Hawkeye), and eventually on the U.S. Olympic Team.

WGMS is a great place because of awesome kids like Eli Biermann!

Upcoming Events
26 thru 29 - Bruce Ahlborn, from Apple, at WGMS
26 - Progress reports go out
27 - Tennis vs. Corsicana, at Heritage, 4:30
28 - STAAR training during conference periods, GCS room D127
30 - No school

3 & 4 -  District Track Meet, at Red Oak H.S., 4:00