Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Instagram for Collecting Observation Artifacts

Students enjoying water colors in art class.
Saipan International School uses McREL Power Walkthrough for teacher observations. It is a great tool that I really enjoy using, because the program focuses on the learning that is happening in the room. I noticed in a recent update that McREL added a camera icon to the walkthrough forms, so an observer can add a photo. I was happy to see that now it would be easy to click a photo of what was happening in the classroom at the moment I was there as a visual record. Photo artifacts are a great extra tool to use and it is nice to be able to show a photo of a teacher teaching or students learning when you talk with parents, students, and teachers about learning. I loved the idea, but felt that it needed to be taken one-step more -- social media! If you are an avid or casual follower of my blog, you knew I was going to go there, because I'm Mr. Social Media, right? But I think it is wonderful to be able to share what is happening in classrooms with the community. Parents should see their children actively engaged in classes and enjoying their school life; plus, it is a great advertisement for our school. What I have been doing this year during walkthroughs is to take a photo or two of what is happening and then sharing the photo with Instagram. Instagram is great because I can do some simple editing of the photo and then send it out to Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter, so I hit all my major social media outlets in one quick share. It spreads the word about the great things are teachers are doing with their students to the entire community. Especially when I throw on a few hashtags to the post like #saipan #cnmi #sisgeckos and then a hashtag for whatever the subject is like #art in the case of the first photo in this post or #english for the second photo. The teachers are enjoying it as well, because many of them don't have photos of them in the actual act of teaching to put in a portfolio or to share with their families. Everybody wins!
Ms. Bevas providing feedback and guidance.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Would Gus D'Amato Do?

"Cus D'Amato, Boxing Icon" by Unknown - Steve Lott.
Licensed under FAL via Commons
The Marianas Variety had an interesting article the other day about a doctor who moved to the island and left the very next day. Although I find it surprising that a doctor, someone who has sworn an oath to help people, would flee a disaster area after only one day without even treating one person, I can understand the mixed feelings the guy must have felt. He isn't he only person to run away from the aftermath of typhoon Soudelor.  Rumors abound about people leaving the island permanently or closing up shop after the typhoon permanently. The Thai House Restaurant, for example, has lost its entire roof and the damage to the interior is substantial. I haven't been able to contact the owner and ask if it will be rebuilt or relocated, but no work is being done on it currently, which isn't a good sign. Gus D'Amato, the legendary boxing trainer, would always tell his fighters that the cowardly person and the courageous person feel the same feelings, the difference is how they handle those feelings. Or in other words, it isn't the problem, but your reaction to the problem. Would Gus quit the fight? Never.

Now to admit a painful truth... After the storm, I wanted to flee. I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to admit it. I'm human and I have human feelings and emotions. There have been days since that I have felt despair and frustration and thought to myself, "Tim, just leave this mess." But every time I collect myself and think about our teachers and students. What example would I set for them by fleeing? Our school is founded on six virtues: integrity, compassion, respect, perseverance, initiative, and scholarship. Does running away show perseverance? Integrity? Respect? Compassion? No. If I don't believe in our virtues, then who will? This is the exact time that leaders are needed; decisions must be made; plans implemented. Others need to be encouraged to continue in the face of adversity and you can't to that from the seat of an airplane as you leave. You need to be on the ground, in the foxholes with the troops. They need to see that survival and recovery are worth the effort. Besides, school has a normalizing tendency; it is a way to feel like things are getting back to a regular routine, even if the new normal is quite different than what we remember.

So I'm not ashamed to admit that I felt like fleeing, but I'm proud to admit that I have conquered that feeling and I continue to fight the good fight. I think Gus D'Amato would smile.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Update from Saipan -- Life with Generator

The 9kw generator powering the high school.
Old -- but it works.
The new normal of life on generator power has been a little difficult, but we are making it work. We are currently running four different small generators to power the basics -- photocopy machines, fans, water pumps, and wifi. No lights, but wifi -- priorities! The teachers and students have been great about being positive and making the situation work. There are very hot days and they are difficult to get through, but things are tough all over. We need to move ahead with the learning in face of the challenges and we are doing it. Some new duties that have been added to the regular role of principal are generator maintenance and repair, refueling generators, and generator storage. Oh, and let's not forget things like covering the generators when it rains. The morning begins with our current maintenance person refueling and starting all generators. I chip in on most mornings by either moving generators or stringing power cables from one room to another and to the photocopy machine.
Refueling the 55-gallon storage drum.
Donated by Tan Holdings.
In the afternoon, the process of shutting everything down and storing them occurs right after the school is over. We leave the office generator a little longer, so my business manager and I can accomplish some more work. Around 4:00pm I shut that one off and place it in storage. This is when things are "normal" now. However, there are non-normal days like yesterday. The generator that powers the office and middle school was acting up by to some bad fuel. Every 30 minutes it would cough, sputter, and die. Finally the gas was drained that a quick cleaning of the filter was done, but by the time it was up and running again. It was already 4:00pm. Luckily today it is running pretty well (only coughing and sputtering every once in a while -- fingers crossed). Over the weekend, Steven will clean the filter completely and we should be back up to 100% capacity for life with generators. We got this SIS!
Generator storage house, made by
Barnard. Keeps kids safe, the generator
dry, and safe from theft.