Getting Started

This was my first week on the new job.  I’ve gotten the “go-ahead,” so I’m going to keep this blog going as I begin my position as Secondary Curriculum Director at Medina City Schools.  (Check it out, I’m on the website!!)

I thought I’d share my first steps in the new position because although I met and talked to some great curriculum people when I was completing my administrative license, I didn’t have an entirely clear first step in mind.

Step One:  Find My Office.  I’ve never been one to shy away from asking questions.  In fact, I find it rather refreshing to throw all the dumb questions (“How exactly do I use this keycard?”) in the open right from the get-go.  It’s always easier to start low and build from there.  That being said,  I don’t pretend to know things I don’t know, and I ask tons of questions:  “What’s your process for this?  How do you expect this to happen?  How do I sign on to my computer?  Can I have a Mac instead of a PC?  Where can I find paper?”  Luckily, the office is filled with incredibly helpful people who were more than happy to guide my way.

Step Two:  Figure Out What You’re Supposed to Do.  This was a little trickier as the rest of the department was in meetings throughout the week, so I was on my own.  Luckily, when left to my own devices, I can make TONS of work for myself, which is exactly what I did.

  • Given my strong background in ELA, I spent some time digging into what is going on with the other content areas. Specifically, I referred to Char’s blog and the content resources she provides to start my research.  I know this is the year for Medina to look at its ELA and History curriculum mapping, so I focused on what is going on in social studies.  Quick summary of what I learned….1)  ODE has changed the name of the standards AGAIN.  They are now “Ohio’s New Learning Standards: K-12 ___(insert subject area)___.”  It’s a good thing Ohio isn’t working on branding these standards because all of these name changes makes it challenging to build a reputation.  2)  There are required American history and American government classes (with course syllabi available here).  3)  Both courses should be working on creating interim end-of-course (EOC) exams that must be adopted by local boards by July 1, 2013.  4)  Only the Government EOC  must have 20% of its questions specifically about the founding documents, but both EOCs are to address the founding docs.  (**For more info. check out my Evernote Note where I’m storing the information and legislation)———From this research, I feel like I gained a solid footing in what’s happening with social studies.
  • I also spent some time digging through current curriculum maps, courses of study, recent work, etc.  One of the best ways to figure out what is going on within the district is to research what work has been done recently.

Step Three:  Meet People.  

One of the things I learned through my administrative internship is that in any admin position, you have to know what people expect of you, and to do that, you have to know people.  I will be the first to admit that I, surprisingly, get incredibly nervous meeting new people.  Can you believe that?!?  I am not a fan of putting myself out there, but when it comes to doing a job and doing it well, I will go out on a limb all the time.  I am willing to be incredibly uncomfortable if that means something productive will happen.  So, I grin and bear it while my face gets red and blotchy and my voice and hands shake.  Here is the productivity from my discomfort this week:

  • Principal Meetings:  I emailed each of the principals of the two middle schools and the high school to request meetings.  In setting these up, I was clear about the goal (I want to talk about the structures that are in place within your buildings and how you see me being most effective in working with you and your staff).  In meeting with the principals (around 40 mins-an hour each meeting), I took copious notes.  I listened to what they needed from me, and I made sure that my understanding of their needs was what they were actually communicating.  I asked them about staff and department meeting schedules and their expectations for my attendance.  I asked about lines of communication and what they expected from me (I also gave them a heads up that I am notorious for toe-stepping given my natural propensity to plow through things…).  I talked to them about their building’s cultures and what I needed to do to establish and build credibility.  I talked to them about my presence in their buildings.  Most importantly, I think, I tried to establish a supportive relationship–I will do what you need me to do, and we will work together to keep instruction at Medina moving forward.  These were incredibly beneficial, and I was so glad that each principal was willing to meet so quickly.
  • Meeting Staff:  I did have the opportunity to tour the high school and meet some of the teachers, which was fantastic.  I feel so lucky and blessed to be back in a district working directly with professional educators.  My advice for beginning to build relationships with teachers is simple–leave any traces of cockiness and ego at the door and be genuine.  I genuinely want to help teachers do their jobs, and I want to do this by being a resource and a support.  I didn’t walk into any conversations with any preconceived notions about being “better than” anyone.  Let’s be honest, many of those teachers, and many of you who read this blog, can TEACH CIRCLES AROUND ME.  I know that.  But I know that I have something to offer as well.  Anyhow, that was my mindset, it is my core belief, and it tempered all the conversations I was able to have on that day.  I talked individually to people about school and non-school things with the idea that I wanted to remember each of them.  What better way to establish a cooperative relationship than learning people’s names 🙂
  • Meeting Department Chairs and Team Leaders:  This is my first goal for week two.  I want to make sure I send emails to each of the department chairs and leaders so they know who I am and that I am ready to jump in.  As a previous team leader myself, I know I could’ve used some support especially at the beginning of the year when the tone and course of team meetings is set for the entire year.  I hope to help, even if the only “help” I can provide is a sounding board for agenda items.

Step Four:  Get the Calendar Up and Running.

My calendar (synched to my iPhone) is my lifeline.  If it is not on my calendar, I tend to forget to do it.  When I received the meeting schedules for all the various departments, grade levels, and buildings, I started filling them in and color coding on my calendar.  My goal is to make it to as many of these meetings as possible and to be an active participant (as appropriate).  Within four days, my calendar is already looking amazing.

Step Five:  Figure out the Vision.

What I kept hearing from the principals and staff is the same thing I hear from working with teachers elsewhere and through social networking.  They want a clear instructional vision and practical, easily implemented steps to get there.  It seems so simple, but in education we pollute the waters too much to allow easy passage.  My goal for week two (aside from the department chair communication I mentioned above) is to figure out the vision and think about and act on bringing it to fruition.




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