Tag Archives: #followtheleader

How to Accessorize Your Staff Meetings with Children’s Books



It is back to school time. A new beginning. A time to come together as a team. Elementary principals from all corners of the United States are preparing what they will say to their staff when they return. Planning that important first-day-back staff gathering can be a challenge.

Any of you principals use children’s books to accessorize that staff meeting? May we suggest that you give these delightful books a try? If they don’t seem to work, ditch them. (…and then it wasn’t us who suggested them. 🙂 ) If the lovely books do seem to bring home an important point, by all means add a title to the agenda now and then.

Phillips and Wong (2010) advised us to “think of literacy as a spine; it holds everything together.” Holding it together at the beginning of the year and all year long seems like a great plan to us.

Here are a few titles that we used when we were elementary principals, and also a few titles shared with us by other administrators, and also how they used those children’s books in their meetings. We hope they bring a little ‘bling’ to your staff meetings – because really, who doesn’t like a little bling now and then?! 🙂

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The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf –“I used this book at the beginning of the year with my staff to remind them that we all play an important role in making the school a place where we all need to work together.” ~Pat W., Superintendent

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 Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss –“I read this book at the all-school assembly at the beginning of the year and changed the names in the book to the names of my staff which allowed for some laughter from the students and faculty.” ~Dr. Wendy C.S., former principal

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Look out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson –“I used this book for kindergarten round up in the spring and for preparing my own children for school.” ~Dr. Sonya V., former principal and parent-in-training

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 Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss – “I read this book at the end of one of my staff meetings to celebrate the fact that we met AYP.” ~Jason S., principal

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Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler – “I read this book the day before grades 3 – 5 take their MCA-II tests.” ~Dr. Connie H., former principal

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 Math Curse by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith – “Math is our biggest challenge for AYP, so we are brainstorming all possible ways to have our students perform better in math.  Thought that we should start thinking “math” like in the story — just a fun way to bring a point across.” ~Melody T., retired principal

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 Zombies: Evacuate the School by Sara Holbrook – “Use at your back-to-school staff meeting. Read ‘100 Percent Me’ then have each teacher give percentages of who they are. Hang up in the lounge or office. These show how each one of us is unique.” ~Dr. Wendy C.S., former principal

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Pip & Squeak by Kate Duke – “I used this to work on developing relationships in the school and home environments.” ~Dr. Sonya V., former principal and current parent of “my 3 sons”!

Accessorizing adds beauty – it can make an outfit or make a meeting. Just don’t overdo it or it will lose its’ luster. We would LOVE to hear of any children’s literature that you are currently using to adorn your staff meetings or all-school assemblies. Please share them in the comments below with us and others.

We wish you a fabulous year filled with enjoyable reading and lots of bling. 🙂

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Rev Up Your Year – Full Throttle Ahead

Google Images
Google Images

An indication that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is coming to a close is when you see packs of motorcycles heading east on Interstate 90 in South Dakota. I actually just witnessed that scenario the other day while driving the car to Sioux Falls. I thought to myself “huh, they are all going the wrong way…must be over.”

Sturgis, South Dakota, with a measly population of 6,600, grows exponentially usually the first week in August, sometimes topping 500,000 people. Individuals from all walks of life ride their bikes out to Sturgis to check out the festivities. (Some people haul their bikes out on trailers then ride when they get there…does that count?). 😉  I know a family from the Sturgis area that rents their home out to a doctor from New York during the week of the bike rally and this family gets an astronomical amount of money for that week. Wow…things that make you go ‘hmmm.’ 🙂

Have you ever been to Sturgis? I have. Just passed through so I can say I’ve been there. That brief time was enough for me, though. Maybe you are one who stays for the whole week. If you are that person, then you know you are ‘revved’ up to get to Sturgis and you go ‘full throttle ahead’ to get there.

Doesn’t that paint a picture of what the beginning of the school year is like? Whether you are a teacher or a principal, aren’t you ‘revved up’ to get started and you go “full throttle ahead’ to get ready for the school year? I know I do. Every year is that way for me. A new beginning is always exciting and I actually enjoy the preparation.

Below are some ways that will rev you up to get your new school year going full throttle ahead:

  • Personal Space – Just like your motorcycle is your personal space, how will you arrange and organize your personal space at school? How will you polish and shine what is yours to make it stand out above all others? Where would you like your desk? Where would you like your materials? Others’ materials? What do you want on your walls? How about your space on the computer? Email all ready to go? How about your class/school webpage? Are you a blogger? Would you like to start? Go to wordpress.com to learn more.
  • Surroundings Awareness – Becoming familiar with the best route to take when traveling to Sturgis was a must. Same goes for school. Get familiar with your building. Where is the copy machine? Do you have a code for it? Where are materials located such as construction paper? Become best friends with the school office administrator, the custodians, the cooks. Does the maintenance crew want your chairs up when they sweep your classroom? How do you ask for help when a repair is needed? Will the cooks allow you to use any of the kitchen equipment for a special project? Do they expect you to help in the lunch room?
  • Leadership Plan – Did you travel to Sturgis with a group? Were you in charge of the trip? Transfer that thought over to school. How will you manage your time? How will you prioritize? Do you know what to do in case of a crisis such as a tornado drill or a sudden death? Is your plan ready to go? Continue to add to your plan as the year progresses. There’s a good chance you will be initiated by fire.
  • First Day Jitters – Once you arrived in Sturgis, did you know what you planned to do that first day? What will you do on the first day at school? Will you be nervous? Probably a little. Get a good nights’ sleep if possible. Drink a glass of tart cherry juice before bedtime. Tart cherry juice has melatonin in it to help aid sleep. Eat a good breakfast the first day. A Green Monster Smoothie is delicious and nutritious. See the recipe below. Leave home with a positive attitude. Build relationships. Greet people at the door. Wear a smile. Actively listen to others. Use icebreakers. Check out the link for many many icebreaker ideas. Read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. Green Monster Smoothie Recipe: 1 cup spinach, 1 cup frozen kale, 1 cup unsweetened Coconut Milk, 1 scoop of Strawberry Slim Fast Powder, ½ frozen banana sliced, 1 kiwi fruit peeled and diced, a handful of frozen cranberries, 1 tbsp flaxseed meal. Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour over ice and sip through a straw. Enjoy.
  • Expectations – Were there certain expectations that you had before, during, and after being at Sturgis? Now that you are home from your bike rally trip, did you visit with others on how the trip went? At school, what expectations do you have of yourself? Of others? How will you behave? How do you expect others to behave? How will you dress? How do you expect others to dress? Are you a good role model? Do you depict best practices? Become a reflective practitioner. At the end of each day, reflect on what went well, and what needs improvement. What do students expect of YOU, their leader? Watch and listen to find out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K96c-TGnSf4
  • Make Connections – From the picture above, it’s easy to see that there were hundreds of thousands of bikes and folks at Sturgis. Connections are easy to make when you surround yourself with that many people. Do the same at school. Connect with the students, the staff, the parents, and anyone else you know who are associated with your school. How can you connect? Get to know people on a personal basis. Remember “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Appreciate others, respect others, show others they matter. Connect with others via Twitter. Join a PLN. Actively participate in live Twitter chats. A few we recommend are #tlap and #nbtchat. Once connections are made, all else will fall into place.

This list is by no means complete. There are many more creative ways to get revved up for the school year. Please add to this list by commenting below. Whether you proudly ride a Harley or lead on a Honda (…or ride a Trek or Schwinn 🙂 ), go full throttle ahead with these ideas. It will make for a great year exponentially. When you are all revved up and ready to go for this school year, please, just keep your hands on the handlebars at ALL times! 🙂 Stay in control…

Have a fun year and enjoy the ride. Let that bike roar.


Julie Carrow
Photo Credit: Julie Carrow


Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.