The Elementary Principal

Encouraging and communicating the daily " goods, GREATS, and not-so greats that the Elementary Principal experiences on a daily basis. Provides a way to share ideas, network, and connect staff, students, and their principals.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Making Facebook work for your Elementary School

A year ago a brave superintendent granted me permission to embark on a Facebook journey for my elementary school. Like many districts these social networking sites had been restricted and not viewable by those of us in the school realm.

My intention was to communicate with parents where they were already hanging out at. Too often I found that messages and announcements to parents were being lost by the young "middlemen and ladies" that we entrusted to transport content home. By using Facebook I could deliver the message directly to them and literally place it right in front of them. After discussing the idea with my PTO I quickly realized that the vast majority of our parents were already friends with each other and involved on Facebook. . Here are a list of suggestions for getting started.

  1. Create a Fan Page: Instead of setting up a typical account on Facebook I went with a fan page. The benefits to a fan page are many. First, I post content and don't get content from anyone else. That means that when a "fan" of our page posts that they just went up a level in "Farmville" it does not appear on our fan page. Parents and family simply become fans of your elementary school.
  2. Feedback. If you choose fans can post comments. This has been a positive to our page. Great feedback and comments. We've also had parents start discussions about fundraisers and ideas they have for our school.
  3. I have the ability to delete comments if necessary. I can happily say that I have never had to use this feature and that our comments have always been positive. I believe one reason for this is that if a parent was to comment negatively about a teacher or situation their comment would be seen by all other parents. Since most parents are genuinely positive about their child's school this may not work out so well for the naysayer.
  4. Start simple. I started by posting documents such as our cafeteria menu. We posted content about spirit days and teacher accomplishments. We have since worked up to short videos, pictures, and links, along with general posts and announcements.
  5. Ask parents for content suggestions. We quickly found out that our parents knew what they wanted from the fan page. We were able to meet their needs while also increasing ownership for the site. We found out that many of them wanted us to post awards and pictures like they would see in their local newspaper. After making sure our district media release covered this we were able to post pictures (without names) various students.
  6. Share the responsibility. Facebook allows you to give permission to multiple people to post content. In my building myself, the guidance counselor, and school secretary can post content.

Brian Crosby example- "Passion" based learning

It's been a long time fellow elementary admins. My goal is to get back into the blogging habit.
We are aggressively pursuing 21st century student ownership in my building. This is a great video that was sent to me that really highlights what a 21st century classroom can be like.


Friday, February 26, 2010

2 new posts

I haven't done a great job of updating the "Elementary Principal" blog with the articles from articles from Here are 2 I missed. If you haven't yet checked out Leadertalk, it's really worth it.
Have a great rest of the year.

Scrapbooking Academic Touchdowns

September 22, 2009

Scrapbooking Academic Touchdowns

I recently spent a morning at our youth football stadium watching our primary elementary students battle it out on the gridiron. As the boys fought for the "W" and the girls cheered I noticed one consistent thing about the parents... They all had cameras. Creating scrapbooks has become a national pastime. In fact my own wife spends entire weekends with hundreds of other moms, wives, and grandmas creating these life novels into the early hours of the morning. She records the hobbies, family events, and little growing up moments of our children that we always want to remember. As I sat on the bleachers I wandered how many of those scrapbooks record academic accomplishments like that first A on a spelling test, reading that first level 3 book, or being that student that reads the morning announcements. Like most school administrators our wheels are always turning trying to discover that new way to engage learners and parents in our schools. As I sat on the 50 yard line waving at the students and sharing small talk with parents I realized something.
How could we better share with parents their child's academic accomplishments? Up until a few years ago those "scrapbookable" moments mounted to report cards, the occasional note home, and maybe a test with a large "A" on the front page. It's time to take a leap forward. We recently started using a video website called Eyejot, ( This website allows you to use your computers video camera to record a 60 second message via the web and email it directly to the person of your choice. This allows us to email mom and dad with in seconds a video link of their child proclaiming their academic touchdowns. The beauty is that mom and dad can then forward that on to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members. The goal is intrinsic motivation to continue to grow academically while also giving the parents that "scrapbookable" moment.

Gary Kandel

The Fine Effect

The "Fine" Effect

Any of us with school age children have heard the exchange.
"How was school today?"
"What did you learn today?"
This scene is repeated daily at countless dinner tables and in the seats of minivans everywhere. Our teachers strive each day to motivate, engage, and educate students of all ages. I've often wondered what switch flips in the child after they leave our classrooms and fail to share the excitement of the past seven hours. Here are a few observations and suggestions.

1. Remind them. Kids, like us husbands, need reminders. Encourage them to share what they've learned by reminding them at the end of the day. One way to make this a part of your routine is to start a classroom blog or website where students can be in charge of documenting the day's learning. This also gives parents a place to investigate the growth that their child is experiencing in the classroom.

2. Ask them. Find out what your students are thinking about after school. What are they involved in? Often we forget that many of our students are only half way through their day after they board those yellow limos. Sports, the arts, church, and family all fill up those hours before they hit the hay. They often do forget what happened by the time they get a chance to sit down and relax with mom and dad. This may not improve sharing their learning, but it will allow us to know and understand more about our students and the lives they live outside the building.

3. The obvious... The past seven hours weren't all that exciting. For educators who haven't quite made the switch, I would encourage you that the best way to impress mom and dad is to impress their child. The 21st century child cannot be educated using worksheets and whiteboards. They must be engaged, challenged, and motivated to discover learning in all areas using 21st century technology. Students must be given the opportunity to apply knowledge in difficult situations to solve exciting problems on a daily basis.

Our schools are in a daily competition for the attention of our students. Our teachers are excellent at what they do, but in many cases this excellence doesn't make it home. Our goal is not convince parents that their child's school is great, but that by encouraging their child to communicate the learning, they may be that much more involved and informed about the education of their child.

Gary Kandel

Monday, June 22, 2009

Confessions of a Paper Chewer

Confessions of a Paper Chewer

In 1988 I was a 5th grader in a typical Ohio elementary school. It was a day like any other and my cousin and I were bored. The teacher had decided to teach social studies that day by reading to us out of the 8th grade textbook since there was more detail than our 5th grade text. Now, you may ask how I remember this… He used the 8th grade book a lot...daily. Without any words exchanged I can remember my cousin and I engaging in the super bowl of paper eating contests. The goal of course was to see who could get the most sheets in our mouth. He quickly took a two sheet lead, not due to his athleticism, simply because I started laughing. And that’s when it happened. My laughing induced a chain reaction causing him to get the uncontrollable giggles, which forced the paper out of his mouth and onto the poor female student in front of him. Thus, quickly ending our training to become world-class paper chewing champions. We ended up in for recess.

Twenty years have passed since that 5th grade year and now I find myself trying to solve the same problem that forced me to chew paper. Student engagement has become a passion for me as an educator and administrator. In my experiences I have become certain of one thing. Students who do not feel entertained or challenged to learn, will entertain and challenge themselves in any way they can. Kids don’t naturally look to adults for wisdom and knowledge. There must be something about the adult, the environment, or the challenge that entices the learner to be engaged in the experience. If that “it” factor is not available it is near impossible to sustain the attention of the student.

A great example of this is grand kids heading over to grandpa and grandma’s house. The moment they walk in they know exactly where to head for entertainment. My son knows exactly where every model tractor and toy farm implement is located and that is immediately where he heads after entering the house. That is until grandpa says the magic words, “I’ve got a job in the woods that I could use help with.” Like a lightening bolt my son is up and getting his shoes on. I know what you are thinking, what 5 year old doesn’t like being in the woods with grandpa. Exactly, and grandpa knows that the woods serves as the engaging environment, the job the challenge, and the relationship the entertainment. Because of these 3 necessary factors my son is able to learn from the experience. At 5 he can identify more plant and tree species than his father.

Improved student engagement is a goal for any educator at any level. Although I can’t always take students to the woods to learn about plants, I can still be cognizant of the learning environment, the challenge, and the relationship. Keeping these three pieces of the puzzle at the forefront of planning will greatly improve the experience for both the teacher and the learner.
Gary Kandel

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Common Sense Change

Common Sense Change

In 1905 a young engineer named Henry Ford invented a strange looking box with four wheels known as the Quadricycle. This creative engineer was able to accomplish this feet of industry using the skills he obtained while learning in the city of Detroit as an apprentice machinist. Even then the skills he obtained and mastered were based on the knowledge, technology, and equipment of the time. Without his knowledge of the present he was unable to invent the future.
While histories lessons are invaluable, current technology, skills, and concepts are a necessity for today’s engineers and inventers. Are educators are much like engineers? They are given materials and asked to create an object or device that works, and performs better than older models. Teachers are given students with a variety of skills, needs, and wants and are asked to create a learner that can accomplish more than last years model. Sounds pretty much the same to me.
I am frightfully discovering that many of our educators beginning their careers in classrooms are lacking the inventive spirit and 21st century skills that improve education and reaches the present day child. We continue to use old practices on “new” kids and our teachers continue to get more frustrated when they don’t work or their students are not engaged. Today’s learner continues to be less engaged in traditional teaching. I believe not because they have a bad attitude but because they learn in a culture that speaks a new language and uses new skills. The system of instruction we have today is grounded in tradition and convenience. Worksheets haven’t changed. We’ve just discovered ways to make cleaner and faster copies.
Teachers are not necessarily to blame. They have a workday and calendar that does not provide for systemic building wide training of these skills. Instead we train one or two people by sending them away while the rest never have the ability to obtain that talent due to inadequate planning and collaboration. The future of education doesn’t lie in the results of a standardized test but in the inventive spirit of creative teachers, administrators, and school staffs around the world. Beginning in college future educators must be given the opportunity to invent new ways to teach and learn. They must learn the skills and makeup of the 21st century child and obtain the tools to inspire them. School districts must give their teachers the time necessary to relearn what type of child they are teaching and be given the freedom to meet their needs through new ways of learning while holding onto the caring student teacher relationship that makes kids want to come.
Our nations schools are filled with teachers that have a deep passion for learning and a caring heart for children. They also have a mounting frustration with trying to engage kids that have no interest in school. Just like the technology and skills that have changed throughout the history of the automotive industry, the needs, skills, and learning styles of our students has changed. From the age of birth our students are immersed in a digital world with digital equipment. We cannot continue down the path of expecting them to adjust to what works for tradition. Every day we sell our product of knowledge and skills. The question is not if they need what we are selling but whether they are willing to buy our Quadricycle.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Filling your cup

I just completed a weekend of teaching a graduate course on Positive Discipline. I have to say that as of Friday evening there wasn't really "positive" anything in my sights. I could go on and on about the frustrations that I showed up with but you'd read this as a fellow administrator thinking to yourself, "so tell me something I don't already know"...:)

The teachers in that class over the course of the weekend definitely re-energized me. In reflection though this has to be a priority for all of us. We get tired, frustrated, and just plain "bummed out" with the day to day difficulties that come with the greatest job in the world.


This is so easy to say but often so difficult to do. The reality is, you can't give what you ain't got!!!
If you walk in each day emotionally empty you are not helping your building, staff, kids, or community. So I write this to you with all encouragement and support.
Take care of you too.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

It's been a while

Time sure does fly! I'm embarrassed that I've neglected this blog for so long. I've been busy though and well... life happens.
I'm pleased to say that since my last installment my elementary was given a distinction of being a "School of Promise" by the state superintendent. We're very proud of that and the staff deserves it.
Well like many of you the financial difficulties of being a public school are waging war on our small Ohio district. This is such a difficult time of the year discussing cuts and ways to save money. It's not something I'm excited about using my creativity on.
I'd love to hear of some unique things that other districts out there are trying in order to save jobs but also save money. Please don't be shy I'm willing to try anything.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The 21st Century Child

Well, it's been a month since I last posted. However, this is something that has been really on my mind professionally.
The 21st century student...what does he/she look like, how do they learn, what do they need to learn, how do we need to change our approach to instruction in order to reach the needs of these kids? Do we need to change? These are questions that I see facing me as an administrator and educator throughout the scope of my career.
As an administrator my questions also lean towards my staff... How do I convince them that there is a need for change? What skills need to be taught to the staff? What changes in philosophy ex: technology, BEHAVIOR, attention, motivation, parent involvement, will need to take place in order to focus on learning and not on some of the constant distractions that we HAVE NO CONTROL OVER and won't have control over...ever...ex: parent behavior, home environment, pre-school exposure.
It pains me to see my staff spend so much of their energy on these things. They care so much for these kids, however we only have control over what we have control over.
I know the usual response is "go slow to go fast", these things will happen with time, etc, etc. However I can't help but feel that we are already getting behind in adjusting to the 21st century student. I mean I'm "blogging" for crying out loud. Of course, right now my elementary students are "myspacing", "youtubing", "IM'n", and playing video games against other kids in other countries. Not because they are so advanced, but because it's just what is "cool" right now. Where do we begin?