Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Junior Class Principal

Today I spent my entire morning at Jefferson High School. I was lucky enough to shadow Ms. Donnie Whited, one of Jefferson’s esteemed assistant principals. Ms. Whited is actually one of my former teachers from Sam Houston High School and I was very excited last year when I heard that she would be one of the new principals under Ms. Cockrell at Jefferson. Ms. Whited was one of the most formidable elements of my time at Sam Houston High. She was the only teacher, in my personal opinion, who was not stopping at graduating students from high school, but also developing well-prepared GLOBAL leaders to step into the corporate world and take over. I contribute a large amount of my speaking skills and professionalism to Ms. Whited’s mentoring at Sam Houston. Anyways, enough gloating about the wonderful Ms. Donnie Windham Whited…

I arrived at Jefferson High at 8:45am, just in time to catch the school administrators in the halls rounding up all the students who were tardy to class. The admin were equipped with handheld devices that scanned student’s ID cards, loaded the appropriate offense into the database (tardiness) and then printed out a ticket (tardy pass) which listed the student’s name and also their history of prior offenses. So, all in one stop the student was stopped, notified, documented and then sent to class. If the student was in violation over a certain amount they would be held to the side and escorted to the detention hall. Ms. Whited notified me that these devices saved staff a tremendous amount of time and relieved so much paperwork. Efficiency at its finest.

As the tardy students were standing in line to receive their tardy passes, Ms. Whited walked along the line and inspected uniforms and shaving regulations. Yes, shaving regulations. Jefferson High has a rule that student’s must be clean-shaven, with an exception for mustaches. If a student was in violation they would be escorted to the detention hall, where they were provided a shaving razor and shaving cream and were required to shave. As we escorted the two students who were in violation of the shaving regulations to the detention hall I heard one of them mention, “Man, you know how many girls I got with this?” referring to his thin amount of facial hair, “Now I’m not going to get any of em…” I wanted to tell him that he was definitely better without it and should wait until he can grow a big boy beard before he chooses to stop shaving, but, I decided to just stay quiet and keep notes.

After dropping the peach fuzz crew off we then went to visit one of Ms. Whited’s students for a little positive reinforcement. She informed me that the student had been in a bit of trouble in the past and that they seemed to be on a better path now, so she wanted to go by their 1st period class to encourage them to keep it up. When Ms. Whited pulled the student out of class I realized that they were actually a special education student. At the end of their brief conversation the student gave Ms. Whited a hug and invited her to their ‘graduation party’ this year. Ms. Whited politely declined, but told them that she would gladly purchase a graduation gift instead. He left her off with another hug.

After our short visit Ms. Whited then walked me to the JROTC building. I won’t go too far into detail on this visit because I will be writing an exclusive blog on Jefferson’s JROTC program in the near future, but, to say the least, I am VERY impressed. I was lucky to be at Jefferson today because the U.S. Army was actually on campus with their Black Hawk simulators as well as an entire challenge course. As the students completed the course they were given a set of personalized dog tags. Not much else to say about that, it was just a nice coincidence that I came on the same day as this event.

After the JROTC visit and a few stops in between, we came back to Ms. Whited’s office so she could take care of some paperwork and also get her information together for her ‘Data Walks’. A Data Walk consists of admin visiting individual classes and going through a checklist of observation items. Each admin is equipped with an iPod Touch which has program that allows admin to simply check a box under each objective. Some of the objectives listed on the list are:

Is the teacher sitting or standing? Yes or No

Teacher’s location:
- At desk
- Front of room
- In teaching zone
- Not present

Learning Environment:
- Teacher Nest (messy, disorganized, clutter)
- Instructionally Purposeful (posters relating to content)
- Effective Classroom Management
- Door/Window Uncovered
- Visual Models

Administration is required by the district to complete 25 data walks per week for each grade level. This is a terrific policy considering it requires eyes-on accountability by administration. Even though it’s a matter of integrity whether or not personnel actually complete the data walks or just ‘pencil-whip’ the checks, I think with the proper oversight this would prove to create a more proactive administration as opposed to a reactive one. It’s easier to catch deficiencies in teachers when you have to do daily checks, as opposed to waiting for a student or parent to report a discrepancy.

All in all, today’s visit was a complete information overload, at least from the viewpoint of a blogger. But from the viewpoint of someone who is looking to enter the education field in the near future, it was a chance to experience the nonstop tempo of being an administrator at an inner-city high school. So, not much of a lesson/moral to the blog today, just a day in the life…well, half a day at least.

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