Teachers Need To Reboot Your Systems

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of Ted Winner

As we approach the end of another school year, I was challenged to find a set of articles that would be relevant to educators in the last days of the year. Technology is a wonderful tool, but at times it also can increase educator stress and anxiety. You deserve an opportunity to reboot your brain in order to clean your internal hard drive for next year. I located two articles on the subject that I thought would be helpful. “Summer Break: Tips for Teachers Who Need to Rest and Recharge” and “How Teachers Can Recharge This Summer”(links for both articles included at the end)

A quick summary

  1. Take a break from technology- I particularly like the “I’m away from the office message on your work email, noting that you’ll only be checking it intermittently during the summer.”
  2. Rediscover the pleasure of reading a book- Revisit an author that has inspired you in the past.
  3. Spend time with kids but not in charge of them, often we forget the why we decided to do what we do.
  4. Go on a real vacation, be it a day trip or a week long get away. Do something that’s for you and your family.
  5. Catch up with TV Shows, you know that box in your room that keeps your pets company during the school day.
  6. Tackle the Three Biggest Issues in Your Classroom.
  7. Get Physical, prepare your body for the upcoming year. A house (your mind) is only as strong as its foundation (your health)
  8. Reconnect with Friends and family-Life is too short to let them slip away
  9. Review Your Finances- How do I survive an extra two weeks before my one day pay check
  10. Redecorate-Your classroom-plan what your room will look like next year. Add to it throughout the summer.
  11. Take a day to do nothing “Be a Slug”.



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Rejuvenation and Reflection

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of LaTonya Wallace

As we close out the school year, we often have opportunity to reflect on our successes and failures as an educator. We all go through this process, whether we are a classroom teacher, secretary, counselor, building service worker, and/or administrator.  Why? Because we have the most rewarding career there is and that’s to be a champion for young people.  Most of the time, when I meet with teachers they use the end of the school year to highlight the accomplishments of their students.  They typically speak about the student who they thought they couldn’t reach.   The common thread for them is “relationship”.   

Many educators take the summer months to rejuvenate their bodies and minds, but while they are doing this they often reflect on the students they couldn’t reach. The good thing about this is, we all get a chance to do a re—do to inspire and champion around students in the upcoming months.  As I took time to reflect on my closure of the school year, I came across a great read! I hope it helps you to start a new year when working with your students! 



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Things To Keep In Mind

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of: Marga Ugarte-Caffyn

As we finish out the school year, we are trying to muster the energy to get through the rest of testing and final exams. As teachers, we tend to think of others before ourselves. As I am working with my newcomer’s class on healthy habits, I need to look inward at what healthy habits do I have and which I need to make a part of my day.

P.M.A.: Positive Mental Attitude

Many of you have heard me say this often. I try to make it a daily motto. Our jobs can be physically, emotionally, and mentally very draining. The slightest situation can send us into a tailspin. Try to stay positive. When things are out of control, spend your energy dealing with the situation in a positive manner. It took me a long time to learn that when something is in my control, I can spend the energy to influence it. However; what is out of my control, don’t waste the energy. Especially in a negative manner, it’s too draining.

Listen to Your Body (Rest and Nourishment)

I realize after many years, that if I am tired or need rest; it’s best to listen to my body. I will eventually get done what needs to get done. I make an effort to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. It really makes a difference.   Eating lunch is something I need to work on. How many times do we rush from class to other tasks and not take the time for lunch? This has always been a work in progress for me.

Pick Up a Book; Put Down the Cell Phone (iPad)

As much as I complained about my son and the students’ obsession with electronics, I am guilty of the excessive screen time in the evenings.   This is something I need to put into my daily routine. We need to limit screen time (especially before bed, or during bouts of insomnia.) Unplug and open a book. This is my goal.


Some of you are doing a great job sticking to an exercise routine. We all know, at least 30 minutes a day can make a big difference. So, what am I waiting for ????

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Celebration of Teamwork

As we close in on the end of the school year, we have much to celebrate.  Once again, OMHS was named among the nation’s top high schools by The Washington Post.  This is due in no small part to your cumulative efforts as teachers and your demonstration of and belief in our students’ capabilities.  Many who know of our changing population would say this is an impossible feat, but we know better than to allow the labels students are assigned to define their capabilities or our beliefs in students’ achievement.  Maintaining and cultivating those beliefs in our school and community culture takes teamwork.

The distance we have come in our Lighthouse Journey is to be celebrated as well.  Consider your initial instructional goals from the start of the school year and look at the learning and progress you and your colleagues have made to investigating formative assessment as a process and seeking ways to involve students in creating success criteria and evaluating their own learning.  While there is certainly more to learn and distance left in this journey, we’re all making positive progress nonetheless.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the teamwork it takes to endure a school incident such as the one that took place on May 9th.  It takes everyone of us to listen to kids, hear what they are saying, and respond with care and compassion.  It takes strength of team to love and care for a child who doesn’t yet love himself.  It takes strength of team to ease students’ uneasiness and anxiety.  It takes strength of team to raise kids to believe in themselves, their school, and their community – this is the true testament of your strength and your teamwork.

I appreciate everything you bring to your role as individual teachers and the strength you bring as a team.  -Abbey

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This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of Cathleen Russell

One of the challenging aspects of our profession is keeping our content and instruction fresh and engaging. For me, I learn a lot from my colleagues. We have a lot of amazing teachers in this building! I also love going to conferences, taking relative and engaging PD, and reading books.

Here are some of the resources I turn to regularly to keep me going …

  • Cult of Pedagogy Podcast

This Podcast is done by a former middle school language arts teacher. She has a lot of really great guests on the show and tackles the current issues teachers are facing in the classroom today. She tries to reach out to all levels and issues so I recommend searching by topic to find content that is relevant to your classroom.

  • Check out some college or university syllabi for your content or course

In music I’m always wondering what the colleges our students are going to really want them to know and what they should be prepared for. For the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to work on the Music Technology curriculum and that field is constantly changing. By keeping an eye on the changing trends I can keep my content infused with fresh and relevant info.

  • Go to a conference!
  • I always feel refreshed and ready to tackle my classes after attending a conference, or just a good solid PD. Find something out there that is very specific to what you teach. I’ve formed some great relationships during the downtime at conferences and have teachers I can bounce ideas off of. Even though some of us are in big departments we might be the only teacher who teaches a specific class or area of our content. It can get lonely – don’t let it!
  • Get online!
  • Binge watch some TED Talks (there are new ones all the time!), join an online group and find teachers you can connect with. There are lots of Twitter chats and other online groups you can find to suit your needs. Look for some teachers online who are getting active and jump on board with their initiatives! It’s always refreshing to find other teachers who feel the same way you do! (Not an online type of person? Read some books! Become a Barnes and Noble member – the discounts and the coupons are great!)
  • Get your National Board Certification
  • I am a huge supporter of this. This was one endeavor that greatly shaped a lot about the teacher I am today. Seriously, look into it. It forced me to look at and critique my instructional strategies on a deeper level than I ever thought possible and changed a lot about how I plan for, and deliver my lessons. I can’t recommend this highly enough.
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The Change I See

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of Kathleen Pelletier

When I came to interview for my current position last year- roughly around this very time of year- I sat for a few minutes in the front office, anxiously waiting my interview and observing the activity occurring around me. I took it all in. I watched how the staff interacted with students and each other, what the hallways looked like as the classes changed from second to third period, the general feel of the building.

I had been at my previous school for twenty one years as a teacher in every special education program and as the department chair for the last thirteen years, I was comfortable there. I wanted a change, I needed a change. I could feel my professional self slowly sliding from feeling comfortable to complacent. I decided to counter that by changing things up professionally- a new school, a newish position and a new level.

This is scary stuff for someone who likes routine and structure. So it was important to me that wherever I landed, I had to feel something good on a visceral level. It had to be the right change and the right place to support my growth- because let’s face it, most changes come with some growing pains.

Every organization today, schools in particular, face the challenge to change and adapt, either as a response to what is happening in our world outside of our organization, or simply to review and reevaluate what we are doing within our organization. Change can be a scary idea to most adults and generally, people are inclined to defend the status quo and resist change for a multitude of reasons. Resistance can range from a straightforward intellectual disagreement to deep seated personal factors- as my case in point- a moderate level of discomfort.

How do we cope, as an organization, with the significant changes impacting us?

Good leaders and leadership among staff are pivotal in creating effective change, which is no surprise. And the united vision and leadership role of all staff is needed to create effective and sustainable changes.

But I see something else here at Owings Mills, something that caught my attention almost a year ago, waiting for my interview. The intangible things, that are special and inherent of this school community.

I see a staff that cares about student learning and achievement

I see a staff that cares about the safety of everyone in this community

I see a front office staff that has a smile, kind word, or wise crack just when you need it.

I see an administrative team that keeps their cool in the face of all sorts of adversity

I see teachers and staff, working late with students

I see a community that cares about the well-being of their students and each other.

These are just a few of the many facets that contribute to the support that is needed as we approach changes, we are a team, a community, a support system.

As it turns out, Owings Mills has been the right change and place for me, and that is due to the strong support you, as a staff and community, have provided me and continue to provide each other.

We will continue to see more changes in the world around us and within our community, it’s inevitable. From what I see, our OM staff is ready!

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The Spring Holiday Is Upon Us

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of John Novicki

The Spring holiday is upon us. A common cultural belief is the renewal of spring.   A time to reflect upon the past, recharge and renew.

It is a good time to reflect upon the positives we have experienced this year. For most, it has been a challenging year with new professional expectations, methods and goals. Too often we find ourselves dwelling upon things which disturb our own sense of peace. Try gathering together those artifacts of your success – that really great lesson, the card you received from someone, the kudo a colleague bestowed upon you, a copy of some exemplary student work that you helped foster, a picture of a special moment, etc. etc.   Put them in a folder, binder or scrapbook. Don’t let it become a dustbin of trivia but a renewable source of affirmation and strength.

Relax. You have worked very hard for months. Try and forget about school for a week. It will still be here when you return. Make the spring holiday a vacation. Dr. Susan Whitbourne commented upon the harmful effects of stress and the part vacations play in breaking the stress cycle and renew us to better shoulder our responsibilities.

“Chronic stress takes its toll in part on our body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and even ability to avoid injury. When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you’re more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed. . . Vacations have the potential to break the stress cycle. We emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again. We gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines.” 1

Because of their specific responsibilities, some of us might need to come into work during the holiday. If you do, try to limit it to a single occasion. Spend time with family and friends. Your children or grandchildren will only be young once. . .

Some other spring holiday suggestions include: (some thanks to the folks at Creative Education)

Turn off the email. Configure your email to let people know you are “out of the office and not available until ____ . “ If you “have to” monitor your email (to avoid surprises or major issues here at school) set aside a time when you know you will not be engaged with your family and friends – at a time when something from school is not going to mar or spoil your peace at home (or abroad).

Schedule the time you have. Too often that “hour working on grades” becomes an all-day affair taking you away from those family and friends times. Schedule *you* time.

Eat and rest as much as you can. During stressful times we have a tendency to eat poorly as we rush from class to coverage to class to duty and so on. Pay attention to the quality of what you are eating now that you have the time. Sleep. Few of us sleep enough during the school year. As mentioned before, schedule the extra time you need to recharge *you*

Do something different. Get out. Go outside. You have been arriving in the dark, spending your whole day inside and leaving in the dark. Take a hike. And whilst we are thinking about doing something different – do something really different.   Try doing something you have never done. Go somewhere you have never been. Be creative. Go play.

To some of you this might sound like some sappy holiday wish for you. It is and it isn’t.

You have a responsibility to take care of your mental and spiritual health, your family, those that depend upon you and, somewhere down the list, your professional ability. The staff of this school is its most important resource. Please take care of yourself


1 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201006/the-importance-vacations-our-physical-and-mental-health

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