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June 2008
Vol 5 No 6
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Back Issues
Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.5 No.6 June 2008

Cover Story by Alfie Kohn
Atrocious Advice from "Supernanny"
Behaviorism is as American as rewarding children with apple pie… but for how long does it work, and at what cost?


Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008

Columns
VisualizationMarvin Marshall
Textmapping: Where Old Becomes NewCheryl Sigmon
Administrative BroadwayTodd R. Nelson
The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac
Easy Ideas to Wrap up the YearSue Gruber
Committees: Make Them More ProductiveHal Portner
Helping Children Cope After DisasterLeah Davies

Articles
The Dance of the Honeybee
June 2008 Writing Prompts
Your School's Mission in a Sound Bite
The Medicalizing of Education
I Used to Educate Students; Now I Prepare Them… for The Test
A Great Model Of Differentiation
Live Chat with Adora Svitak
Making the Most of Summer To Prepare for the New School Year

Features
Printable Worksheets & Teaching Aids
Candles of Inspiration: June 2008
Teachers.Net Craft Favorite: Father's Day Project
Featured Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: June 2008
Video Bytes: The human cost of war, in song, Literacy centers and more...
Today Is... Daily Commemoration for June 2008
Live on Teachers.Net: June 2008
The Lighter Side of Teaching
Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes for Teachers
What are some things you absolutely DO NOT miss about teaching?
How Many Years Did It Take You to Get It Together?
Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


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Cover Story by Alfie Kohn

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Marvin Marshall,Cheryl Sigmon, Marjan Glavac, Todd R. Nelson, Hal Portner, Leah Davies,Tim Newlin, James Wayne, James Burns, Alan Haskvitz, Bill Page, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, and YENDOR.

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Todd Nelson

The Principal Learning Curve
Archive | Biography | Resources | Discussion

Administrative Broadway
A walk through a week in the life of a school principal

From David Letterman's pay phones, to a student's "mooning," to tragedy among the staff, this school principal documents the risky and rewarding journey through a routine week on the job.
by Todd R. Nelson
June 1, 2008

Thursday. I am standing in the lobby of a hotel in the Big Apple while attending a teachers convention. I have been enjoying catching up with colleagues from past school experiences: 'Hi, how are you? You look great! How are things going at school?' We go to seminars and crowded auditoriums to hear luminaries talk about the meaning of our work in schools, of community, of social cruelties and joys in the lives of middle-schoolers and their teachers; of homework, etc. The civil rights leader, the psychologist, the author, the fabulous science teacher, are arrayed in tantalizing succession. Food for thought. Intellectual and ethical stimulation. A nice change of pace from the daily walk of being a school leader.

Friday. I am standing in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway. Wouldn't it be fun to call home from that bank of pay phones that David Letterman likes to call, hooking people off the streets into the glaring gaze of America's late-night television audience? My wife and the kids are at the dinner table. "Hey, guess where I am?" They love the scene. "I'm right outside Mujibur's store, next to Letterman's theater." It's almost like seeing a celebrity.

My wife gets on the phone. "Hon, I think you should know what happened at school today." My last instructions to the faculty before I left were, “Don’t call unless it's an emergency.” This is worth it. Something must be done, before the next school day, about little Gary's indiscretion in drama class: mooning everyone, including the teacher. Full moon. Tonight I will have to get on the phone to the drama teacher and to Gary's mom. Tonight I am also going to a Broadway show: "Bring in da noise, bring in da funk." A propos of nothing, Gary watches South Park regularly. I do not have cable television.

A texture, a tone, a heartbeat, every day a rematch with ourselves and our community.

Monday. I am standing in the 7th grade homeroom explaining Gary's suspension from school for two days. 'This isn't a school with lots of rules written down for every potential infraction. We operate with a pretty good set of values that we expect you to know and understand; values that you'll learn to apply to any situation, familiar or unfamiliar. One of our values is forgiveness. When Gary comes back on Wednesday, his consequence is over; he's forgiven the mistake he made."

Wednesday. Gary's back. "Gary, I like you; you're a witty guy. But mooning the class was 'over the line.' Thank goodness you made that mistake in 7th grade and not later on when the results might be more damaging." He already knows what I feel I need to tell him. "I just didn't think," he offers. He knows that I know he knows. Two weeks later a classmate's mother tells me the story of being mooned by Gary and John when they were playing over at her house.

Thursday. I am standing in front of the middle school students at 8:15 in the morning to make an announcement. The day before, an hour before faculty meeting, I received an urgent call. Tragedy: Carl, one of the school's maintenance workers has been found across town, an apparent suicide. Many of the kids know him. He was a buddy to an eighth grader. We discuss this as a faculty, plan how to tell kids the next day and invite the school psychologist to be available; I send a letter home to parents explaining. This morning, before classes, I tell the kids what happened. The 6th graders ask if the flag can be lowered to half-mast. The flag is lowered. They also start a bulletin board with Carl's photo and hand written tributes.

Friday. I am standing in front of the middle school students for our weekly town meeting. We will play a game: team spelling bee. We have moved to the gym so that we can make noise, run around in controlled exuberance. I call out words and each grade sends up the students holding the required letters. Grade versus grade in good-hearted competition. 'Gnarly', 'ambidextrous', 'suite'. One of the faculty judges doesn't know that Xena does not have a 'Z' in it. We replay the point. In the five point final round, when I surprise the teams by asking them to "spell" the alphabet, the 8th grade puts Z where A should be. They blow their lead. To everyone's delight, this will require a rematch.

Later today, the school psychologist will come to meet with kids who need to talk about Carl's death. He will also console the person in the kitchen who was closest to him. It makes a difference for her to hear that she had done all she could.

Doing all we can.

A high aspiration.

A daily walk.

A texture, a tone, a heartbeat, every day a rematch with ourselves and our community.

~ Todd



More Gazette articles...




About Todd Nelson...

Todd R. Nelson has been a public and private school English teacher and administrator for 29 years, in schools in Cambridge, San Francisco, Chicago and Maine. He is principal at the Adams School in Castine, Maine, a 54 student K-8 school on the town common in a little town on the coast, where he gets to play four-square at recess, play his bagpipes, and write musicals for the all-school play.


Todd Nelson Articles on Teachers.Net...
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