I can not tell you enough how refreshing it is to work with an administrator that is truly committed to student success. This year I have the privilege of working with a principal who not only makes it a point to walk around to each classroom daily to greet the students, but he also visits classrooms at random to read his chosen book of the month. There was a time when I was told (by a different principal at a completely different school) that a read aloud was (and I quote) "a waste of time" and that I needed to stop doing them daily and to instead focus on test taking strategies..... Needless to say, the purpose of this post is to share with you a great morning lesson that was presented to my classroom by my principal.
The Principal's Book of the Month for February is Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. The authors set the tone of their story by beginning with "On some days your dreams may seem too away far to realize… Listen to the whispers of those that came before you...". Throughout the story they share many triumphs of people who fought through fear and difficult obstacles to reach their goals. My principal began the lesson with first talking to my students about what they can do to change the world. He asked them to think about what positive contributions they can make to our school and our community so that they could make a difference. He then shared that he was going to read a book AND that we were going to participate in an informal school-wide contest (I LOVE competitions!!). So he had each student take out a piece of paper. The challenge was, as he read this great story to them, they had to figure out who the authors were describing. Using notable events and descriptive language the Lee's described great contributors to American history. BUT, they never mention the name of who it is they are talking about. One of the first descriptions began with "The road won't be easy. People will try to exclude you. But you must leap over hurdles-like the Olympic athlete who won the gold even though he had been relegated to second-class status by the very country he was representing." (<<Jesse Owens). As my principal read the story, my students were writing the names of the person who they thought was being described. At the end of the story they were eager to see if they were right but they first had to share again what their goals for the future were. There are a total of 11 trailblazers described in this story and my students were able to identify 8 of them correctly! And, the ones they did not recognize they were familiar with once we discussed them.
My students were so engaged and so eager to share what they knew that a simple 30 minute lesson turned into about an hour! My principal discussed one of his favorite poets, Langston Hughes, and offered my students P-Point (school-wide behavior incentive) if they could name 2 poems that he had written.....MY students named FOUR! (proud moment, we just did a genre study last week and I was happy they retained the information!!). It was also great to see my students engaged in rich dialogue about things that have happened in our past (they get it....they really get it). They were able to answer questions and even add to what the principal was saying. They were able to recall speeches made by Martin Luther King and reference the constitution (AND NO I did not prep them!).
We had a great morning. Having our principal spend some time with us was refreshing : )