Initiatives are like GoogleDocs

For the past few years, we have been ending the school year with an Administrative retreat. We review our strategic plan, review the year and set initiatives for next year. This year, our Head of School had us brainstorm short-term, medium-term and long-term initiatives for the school. Short-term initiatives were ones that could be solved in the 5 hours of our retreat, medium-term were initiatives that needed to be further investigated, but could be implemented this summer, and long-term were major school initiatives that might take more than a year to tackle. We wrote them down with a good old- fashioned marker on 3 different flip charts.

Some of our short-term initiatives included things like:

  • examining the format of graduation
  • amending our dress code to reflect some of the latest styles
  • removing the ban on the use of mobile devices in the school buildings (YAY for this one! The policy is being amended!!!!)
  • relocation some of our study halls out of the library so that students can actually begin to use it AS a library (YAY for this one too!)

(…to name a few)

Some of our medium-term initiatives included:

  • revamping new student orientation
  • discussion of ways to make our first day of school more meaningful and memorable for students
  • ways we can improve our current advisor system
  • beginning the revision of our faculty assessment/ professional growth program
  • examining  student awards/ prizes. NOTE: I publicly thank @jonathanemartin for this. I shared his post re: Awards at St. Gregory: Changes we are making to recognize all of our students earlier this year. I truly believe it was the catalyst to this amazing conversation.

Some of our long-term initiatives included:

  • revamping our daily school schedule
  • implementing an improved assessment/ professional growth program to include the entire community
  • full curricular review for vertical and horizontal continuity using our curriculum maps

We debated these topics, brainstormed some solutions and put together a list of things to do this summer and in the year to come. As we headed to a very nice luncheon, I felt great! Many of the initiatives I wrote on the charts were moving forward.

Later that evening, I put some finishing touches on the GoogleDoc of the meeting notes. While we made a lot of headway on our short-term initiatives, the medium-term initiative list seemed long. And while I knew we had to work on these things this summer, WHO was going to keep them moving? Our Head of School was certainly in agreement with the direction we were going, the big ideas, but who were the “do-ers”?

The bottom line is, in order for any of these things to get done, someone needs to OWN them–just like a GoogleDoc. And just like a GoogleDoc, collaboration is possible, and necessary, with most of the initiatives in the list. The “owner” might be the person who wrote the initiative on the paper, or not, but the bottom line is, unless someone takes ownership of it, moving the initiative forward is virtually impossible.

Who is going to investigate new student orientation? Who is going to call the meetings re: assessment? Who will get the necessary people together to plan the first day of school activities? Someone needs to do it to keep these great ideas from fizzling out. If not, we will still be talking about the same things next summer at our annual retreat.

I come to this conclusion after reflecting on some stalled initiatives over the past few years. Why did they stall? Most times, because they lacked ownership by someone. Just like a GoogleDoc, you can’t collaborate on an initiative unless someone owns it…. then shares!

More Than A Number

For the past three years, I have had the privilege of being an administrative proofreader. After writing and proofreading my own comments, and proofreading my advisee comments, one might think that this addition task is the last thing a person would want to do. To be perfectly honest, it does seem daunting when I get the pile of half of the ninth grade. I have developed a system to get through it; I break this large task into smaller, more manageable chunks, working on a few letters of the alphabet at a time, and rewarding myself with a break after I finish each group. This system has allowed me to appreciate each student’s comprehensive report, and also appreciate what makes Hamden Hall such a special place.

With a recent #isedchat regarding student growth still fresh in my mind, I read these comments with a new perspective. I seemed to focus on statements like this:

-xxx developed then type of consistency which she and I had set as a goal for her earlier this year.

-xxx had a full year of growth in Performance 1 class. He has become a more confident improviser and a better collaborator in the creative process. It is important to be a part of a team, and he has a better understanding of this concept after a year of collaboration.

-xxx should be very proud of his growth this year. As the first semester began, it was clear right away that xxx was a bright a curious young man with a keen interest in History. By second semester, he seemed to come into his own as a student.

-this was a year of growth for xxx as he adjusted to his life and learning at Hamden Hall. I saw a lot of changes in his academic attitude during the second semester. In fact, the biggest area for growth for xxx was that he started to become a very important participant in class discussions.

-xxx has demonstrated a great amount of growth over the course of the second semester. She started to really dig into her Homework readings; she came to class ready and prepared to join in discussions; she studied methodically for quizzes and tests. Most importantly, she didn’t let the little bumps in the road (like a low test or quiz grade here or there) get her down. She just kept working hard!

These words of encouragement, capturing the growth of students could never be expressed in a number. They truly are the evidence of care, love, and concern that our teachers have for our students. I am blessed to work with such amazing educators.

Celebrate Our Success!

Hamden Hall Faculty:

Here is a list of some of the awesome things we have accomplished this year:

1) Our digital projects page was created and it has grown by leaps and bounds. These projects include podcasts, glogs, blogs, videos, voice threads, vokis and much more! WOW! Our kids can produce some amazing, creative work with your guidance and committment. If you have some additional work you would like to share, send it our way!

2) Many of us participated in 19 Things for Hamden Hall. We learned all about some new productivity, presentations, research, sharing and learning tools. If you didn’t have time to participate, please feel free to take a look this summer. The winner of the Kindle will be drawn at the Faculty Dinner after graduation. Thanks to everyone who participated.

3) Beginning in March, the Middle School worked on a two-month project in advisor groups, with the outcome being ten 60-second Public Service Announcements. The PSAs were fully developed and created by students, with advisors putting in a great deal of time and energy as facilitators. Every middle school student participated in this project, either as directors, actors, writers, editors, stage managers, or camera people. Two students represented each PSA at the screening, which was viewed by the entire middle school, visitors from other divisions, and a panel of three judges. Mary Jane Smith’s group’s PSA, “Words as Weapons,” was declared the winner. To see all ten PSAs, photos taken throughout the project, and to learn more, click here.

4) We now have 221 members of our community in our Hamden Hall Google Apps domain. Students as young as 5th grade have used this tool to write collaboratively, create group presentations and share their work with others without large attachments and without multiple versions of documents being sent back and forth. For more information about Google Docs Tools for the Classroom, click here.

5) Our Professional Development blog has grown! We are sharing and reflecting upon those enriching PD experiences so that the entire community can benefit from them. If you have anything to share this summer, please email me and I will create an entry on the blog so you can share it with us!

6) We have pushed our computer lab reservations to the limit! … just take a look at the calendars in the Faculty/ Staff Center, MS/ US Center and LS Center. We were BUSY! We have been using the available laptops more and more often. I am happy to report that the Parents’ Association has generously funded a class set of netbooks (light weight, smaller sized laptops) that will be available for “check out” next year.

Here’s to an amazing summer of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation!

Summer PD Resources:
What will you learn this summer?

Virtual Summer Camp for Teachers





@sarah_ludwig makes me smarter!

On this last day of classes, I need to pause and reflect for a few minutes about this school year. It seems like yesterday I was interviewing for our open position of Academic Technology Coordinator and now, the year is over and I can say with the utmost confidence, that having @sarah_ludwig on board at Hamden Hall has been an amazing experience for the school, for me professionally (and personally too!)

It is not every day that you get the opportunity to work closely with someone who can dream big but has realistic goals. She also always has a plan to execute those goals, taking the small steps necessary in order to get there! She is not just a talker– she is a DO-er!  Take a look at her work on building our PK- 12 research skill progression and also her work on articulating PK- 12 digital and information literacy goals. The explosion of digital projects at Hamden Hall is a testament to the trust she was able to build with the entire community this year. Her calm and reassuring demeanor puts teachers at ease when working along side of her. Check out Sarah’s  blog for reflections of  many other projects at Hamden Hall (and outside of Hamden Hall). In the midst of working full time, being a wife and mother of a 2 year old and serving as a Tag Team Tech columnist with @joycevalenza at VOYA, she was also able to write a book “Starting from Scratch: Building a Teen Library Program” which is being published this Spring. WOW!

We had many adventures in professional development together–some of which include EdCamp NYC, TEDxNYed, weekly #isedchats and the CAIS Academic Tech Retreat. In our travels to these conferences we dreamed, planned, and solved the problems of the world– all of which benefited me professionally and personally, and Hamden Hall as a community. She makes me feel guilty when I don’t blog enough (thanks for this) and she always asks the great questions– some are difficult to answer. This is all GOOD!

The bottom line– she is SMART and she makes me smarter!  I am a better administrator, technology leader and person because of her. Having someone to test out ideas, talk through issues, and challenge me to work even harder has been an awesome experience. So thank you Sarah Ludwig! I know there has been a few bumps this year — but we made it! Looking forward to a summer of brainstorming, planning and working together to make next year even better!