Monday, March 1, 2021

March 1st - Memories and Beginnings

Today was the day I remember my mom. Four years ago on this day, she passed. Life hasn’t been the same. It’s more melancholy on some days. Bitter on others. Precious everyday. But on a day when I was feeling the grief, this little morsel of joy found the way to me today. 
God knows when to lead, encourage and even be still. My heart was heavy today, missing my momma. As I get ready for bed this first day of March, I am reminded of her love of being a teacher and reading to her students everyday. For over 30 years. To watch them hear for the frost time a story of excitement, of mystery, of love and loss. Eyes wide as they can’t wait to share what they prep to get is coming. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

New Children's Book! "The Penguin Principal"

The Penguin Principal 

I am so happy to have my first children's book published. "The Penguin Principal" is my first book on alliteration for 'P' and shares how a principal prepares for students to start the first day of school. As an avid penguin lover, I started my collection at a young age. This project has been near and dear to my heart. I hope readers enjoy the story and are able to use the vocabulary at the end of the book. My teacher's heart had to include vocabulary!

You can find the book exclusively on Kindle as an ebook. I'll post when the print version is ready (coming soon!)

Watch for upcoming titles and characters! Thanks for your support!

Find the book at this link >>>The Penguin Principal<<<

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Keeping a Positive State of Mind

While it is my favorite hashtag and daily goal, being a #positiveprincipal is not a natural state of mind for me.  It takes work! Keeping positive thoughts in your mind as you tackle the barrage of responsibilities every day can be an exhausting task.  How do you give of yourself to promote the positive when you aren’t feeling it? It is important to remember that the sphere of influence you have, your staff, your site, your district, needs the positive influence, needs the encouragement, needs the boost. It can be a simple start. A smile, a good morning hello, a wave.  It can help lift others.  But don’t forget-You need it as a leader too!
What is it that brings YOU joy at work? How do you stay in a positive mindset?  What have you set up to help you?
As a leader, and serving in leadership roles, one of my biggest pieces of advice is to find that circle of trusted friends and colleagues who can help speak truth to you.  Be okay to admit you don’t have all of the answers! If you can shift and believe that your wisdom is not your own, you can find that it develops over time with good counsel and experience. 
Set around you in an accountability circle those who will be honest with you. Who can you trust to be real with you? To be honest in a way that is meant to improve. Not those who want to be “honest” with you with the intent to stop, impede or road-block a decision or process, or quite frankly, just to be mean. 
Likewise, avoid creating a group that tells you what you only want to hear.  Find those who listen and reflect accurately with you in times when you need a positivity boost. Those real-talk conversations help to solidify in your thinking best courses of action and in decisions. Having some yes-people agree with you all the time does not help you stay in a positive state of of mind. It can begin to feel lonely and superficial. 
Create your daily positivity by being authentic.  Be real and realistic with others. You will begin to find that your positivity comes from being confident where you are and the decisions you make. Know that you also have a system of reflection that you build into your routines. “Was the outcome what I had intended? Did I lead with grace, wisdom and intention? How can I do it better next time?” It’s okay and encouraged to have these reflection conversations with your group. 
In my years of school leadership, I have found that by employing this state of mind, I have the outlook and confidence to know that my accountability circle and decision-making process help to lead with wisdom. With grace. With intention. It takes time and processes to build and remain in a positive mindset. It takes work. 
Be intentional. Build your group. Set your process. Stay positive. 

Be amazing today!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

5 Tips for EdLeaders to Build Stronger Student Supports

Hello-my education peeps! It has been a while since I’ve written or posted on my blog. But I have been writing! Been dabbling working on a book and sharing through guest blog posts great practices in education. 

Specifically, I recently wrote on 5 Tips for EdLeaders to Build Stronger Students Supports for Insight Advance. Weaving all of the current education initiatives and trends becomes a difficult task. I’ve found through deliberate teaming and planning that follows laser-like focus on school and district goals aids in creating flexible and meaningful supports with students. 

Here is my blog, published by Insight-Advance in February 2020.

I would love to connect to learn what is happening and working in your schools and districts. You can connect with me through this website, or through Twitter @PrincipalDenton.

Keep Learning & Leading!


Thursday, April 18, 2019

#PositivePrincipal - Sprinkler Hop

I admit it! I am not always a #positiveprincipal! But I want to be school leader who is. As school leaders, does our mindset and attitude can directly impact the school culture in which we work? Who are we kidding, of course it does! We wear our attitudes and others can see it. We can affect the kind of day others can have. I want my staff and students to have GREAT days!  But let’s be real, I’ve had my share of tough days.
One day in the not-too-distant past, I started out early trying to get my then junior high son ready and out the door with me as we headed to our schools. Picture a cold winter morning, hot coffee in hand, bags and purse hanging from my arms. I was loaded up and ready to go. We were probably 3 minutes late on the schedule already. As I stepped out of the front door with my hands full and wearing an attitude that was less than to be desired, I huffed as I saw the sprinklers on. I impatiently waited for the spray to pass and then I hurried forward, all loaded up, oh and in 4 inch heels no less. Do you see what’s coming? As I attempted to hop over the last bit of sprinkler spray, my shoe slipped. My 4 inch heel failed me! Not thinking to drop everything and catch myself, I fell body first into the cold wet sidewalk, hit my chin and nearly knocked myself out. All of my coffee spilled. I was hurt and wet. But worse I was mad and embarrassed. So I started crying. Late. Hurt. Wet. Crying. I laid there and put my forehead on the sidewalk and cried. My son was so startled because it happened so fast, he was over in seconds to help me up. “I’ll be okay, just give me a minute.” Once I swallowed my pride and took a deep breath, I gathered myself to my knees. “Alrighty, I need a do-over.” So I handed my son the now empty coffee mug and I headed back into the house to change and calm down.
Now I was 20 minutes late. I didn’t worry about the speed limit as I raced my son to his school, and then on to mine. Grabbing my things after roaring into the parking lot, I burst through the office doors and into my office. “Oh-I’ve had day already!” I exclaimed as I zipped past the office clerks and secretary. And then once in my office, I closed the door. I just couldn’t. After about 5 minutes, my amazing secretary knocked on and came in. “Are you okay?” I then proceeded to share with her my harrowing story of the sprinkler hop and was expecting her to be sympathetic. Nope. She burst out laughing. And then I started laughing. “I thought you’d hit a dog or something on the way to work the way you came in just now!” No just being impatient and arrogant. My mood was not right. My frame of mind was not where it should’ve been for my staff. I didn’t even consider that there were parents and students in the school lobby when I arrived.
My poor entrance and attitude affect those around me. My son went to school leaving from a car with a grumpy mom. My office staff felt like they had to tiptoe around me. And worst of all, my students saw me at not at my best.
That is not what I want to project to my school. Not the energy I want reverberating in the office. My desire is to create a positive space for all who enter. Smiles, encouragement, empathetic listening.
Since that day, I don't hop sprinklers anymore. And I take a deep breath before I even step out of my car when entering my campus. Focus and intention. Being a #positiveprincipal takes effort. Everyday. But my school is worth it.
Stay Positive! You got this!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Principal March Madness

I just returned from a fantastic conference! Spring CUE19 in Palm Springs! What a great time connecting with my KernCUE board members and other dynamic educators from all over. There are so many creative and persistent people working to make learning engaging and meaningful for our students. I was inspired, but also a bit overwhelmed. So. Much. Information. 

Susan Denton @positiveprincipal
22 year educator, 12 year admin

In my 12th year of administration, and 1st year at a new site in a new grade level span, there's still so much I am learning everyday! I had elementary education down. The hum and hub-bub of the day, the rhythm, the annual pattern. Middle school is big business. Tough, busy, frustrating, exciting, energizing, exhausting.

I can't be the only one feeling this way as a school site administrator. I see the Twitter and Facebook posts. My peeps are out there...I see you.

Are your thoughts as rampant as mine? Full of March Madness!?!

Here's just smidgen the mantra that keeps repeating in my head. Can't forget anything. Need to fit it in. Did I eat lunch today??

  • Finishing staff evaluations
  • Working on next year's master schedule
  • Creating a do-able state testing schedule
  • Creating and learning from the Spring CUE19 conference in Palm Springs last week
  • Cleaning up my to-do's for getting to graduation and all of the end of the year activities
  • Making sure I have "me time" to renew and refresh daily
  • Read the awesome books I picked up from Dave Burgess Consulting "Ditch that Homework" by Matt Miller, and "Be REAL-Educate from the Heart" by Tara Martin
  • Place all upcoming orders for books, supplies, and technology for next year
  • Oh it's raining outside, better grab my umbrella before duty
  • Prepping for next week's staff meeting
  • Work on my presentation for California League of Schools conference in April
  • Organizing the desk, papers, books, calendar...
And so it goes! But don't you love it? It's exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. I LOVE what I do everyday. Connecting with students, problem-solving and coaching with staff, meeting families, continuing to model being a lead-learner. Love, love, love it! 

We do this for the love of it. Days come and go and we press on. Let's stay encouraged! It's March Madness and we got this!


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, Oh My!

This article was recently published in ACSA Leadership, Spring 2019

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, Oh My!

 Messaging in a Digital Environment
-Susan Denton, Principal (6-8)

In this busy digital world the question for schools and districts is, “How do we keep track of all the social media trends to get our message out to the community, our families, and school staff?” We know our students are quite proficient at connecting online, so why shouldn’t we as a school be as well?

These digital natives get their news, information, and social connections through the interweb. So when it comes to connecting with families and staff to keep them all abreast of current information, school trends, and updates, our school and district makes every effort to communicate through many digital media pathways. Through the years, it has become commonplace to get a quick update through Twitter, Facebook, and our webpages. We want to make our school as accessible as possible to our community and families.

Our district is one of low socio-economics, homeless and foster youth, and many students with disabilities. Despite their financial situation and lack of resources, we have found that our families typically always have access to a cell phone. Our goal is to meet families where they are. We inform parents of the various ways we share important information, school updates on events, and other pertinent topics through digital sources.

Too often the community hears from news or social media the misdeeds or missteps associated with schools. But as educators we know that there is so much good news to share! If we are not promoting the positive happening everyday in our schools, then who will?? Digital communication is so very cost-effective as there is typically no cost required to share celebrations, updates, coming events and news. Share what is happening with your school, your students, your teachers, and share often!

Here are the various resources we use on a regular basis to communicate with Families and Staff:

For Families we utilize a variety of techniques with the hopes that through the information options, they will stay updated and feel connected to the school. We include how to connect in all home/school communications (school newsletters, fliers, etc.). *With all of the following suggestions, be sure to check with your Superintendent and Board Policies regarding social media use in your schools. 

Student Information System (SIS)-We regularly use our messaging system with pre-scheduled recorded messages for known minimum days, special events, and holidays. I have found that by voice recording our messages, we have a better chance of fewer hang-ups. Families like to hear from the principal, and students will often say,“You called my house!” (our district uses the Infinite Campus SIS).

School webpages-When families and the community want to know about a school or district, they usually begin with a Google Search. It is important that your webpages stay up-to-date. Find someone in your school who can be the webpage guru to keep your site accurate and current. We are migrating to SchoolBlocks this year and are excited to create pages that will encourage our parents to connect and engage. Google Sites also has great templates for your site or teachers to use to share and communicate.

Tweet created through Adobe Spark Post
Twitter-We use Twitter for on-the-go posts and texts. This is a quick and easy way to share pictures and updates. We use a few apps to help create visually stimulating posts, including Photogrid and AdobeSpark. We also convert the PDF versions of school newsletters and fliers into JPEGs to upload on Twitter. If parents do not have a Twitter account, we encourage them to sign up for the Twitter Text Messages option. This feature can easily be found through your Twitter account. You can follow our school at: @StandardWarrior

Facebook & Instagram (PTA driven)-Our small but busy PTA makes sure to duplicate and promote all of the school events on their social media pages. Facebook can be one of a school’s greatest assets in sharing celebrations and events with the community. We also know it can be a sounding board for the disgruntled. Our goal is to use the “Power of Positive.” We share with parents how to connect and post using our hashtags when they also attend school events. We have also implemented the monitoring feature where we have oversight on the posts for both of these platforms.

School Sign: Though this may not seem like much, many of our community is without
An easy way to bring attention to your sign, celebrate students!
vehicles and walk by our school regularly. We use the digital marquee to advertise events and encourage them to follow our social media accounts. It is in a high visibility location that updates on a weekly basis.

For Staff: Our staff, both classified and certificated, rapidly and regularly uses digital media for work and life. Our goal is to lighten the paper load and get everyone on the same (digital) page. The district provides regular training for staff through the district and our staff-on-stipends as Ed Tech Mentors, as well as through a technology and learning district conference at the beginning of the school year. Staff is also encouraged to attend technology training conferences and workshops throughout the year.

Google Classroom-Our district became a Google Apps for Education district almost five years ago. In that time, we have equipped every K-8 student with chromebooks, and nearly every teacher with a chromebook. To encourage staff to use Google Classroom with their classes, we have a “classroom” for our entire staff. Each staff member joins as a student, and administration serves as the teacher. This has worked great to post the weekly bulletin, hyperlinked documents to staff meetings and professional developments, and to share staff “Shout-Outs” for praises and celebrations. It is also a great place to share encouragement and words of inspiration.
School Theme created in Google Drawings

Group Texts & Emails-While this may be an obvious choice, we find that there remain educators who do not group text or email to share information. We also find that many staff require reminders to check their email daily and frequently. Email remains the primary source of communication on our campus.

Remind App-As a school leader, I created a group in the Remind App to communicate quickly and for emergencies. Every teacher and classified staff is encouraged to join the group. We have had to use this for lockdowns, loss of power or water issues, and even school precautionary evacuations. Rather than trying to gather a group text in the midst of a crisis, this app allows us to push information out quickly. Recipients can reply, but this message goes only to the sender, not the entire group. It has been a very efficient and cost-effective way to communicate and get to-the-minute updates to staff in crisis situations.

With the ever-growing options in digital and social media, we will continue to learn and use new resources to reach out to families to build the home-school relationship. Parents will continue to be encouraged to get involved and stay current in the academic lives of their students. Our job as schools and districts is to streamline those pathways of communication, and continue to share our message of academic progress, student growth and success.
Stay positive, stay current and stay connected!

March 1st - Memories and Beginnings

Today was the day I remember my mom. Four years ago on this day, she passed. Life hasn’t been the same. It’s more melancholy on some days. B...