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Of Principal Concern

A Blog for School Leaders

Of Principal Concern

Of Principal Concern is a blog about practical ideas that principals can use tomorrow. We hope you'll take time to explore our blog entry archive below, and that you will share ideas of your own, too, as we explore topics Of Principal Concern.

May 2011

Don’t Give Up: Fun End-of-Year Activities Keep Interest and Learning Alive
In the last days of the school year, the inclination might be to give up and give in -- to coast. But many teachers have great ideas for motivating learning right down to the wire. And principals have some fun ideas for celebrating the end of another school year with staff, too. (05/16/2011)

Sun Safety Curriculum, ‘After a Suicide’ Toolkit, Principal’s Cookbook, More
Skin cancer, the most prevalent form of cancer, is also one of the most preventable. To help reduce the rising rates of skin cancer, schools across the U.S. will use these free activities to recognize Don’t Fry Day later this month. Plus: Civil War lessons, suicide toolkit, principal’s cookbook, more. (05/09/2011)

Ten Contests Inspire Student Learning
With Poetry Month behind us and Pet Week upon us, why not challenge kids to write poems about their pets, and then enter the national “Pets Add Life” Poetry Contest? Check out this and other contests for students. (05/02/2011)

April 2011

Celebrate Your Entire Team During Staff/Teacher Appreciation Week
Educator, speaker, and author (Looking Forward to Monday Morning and Season It With Fun: A Year of Recognition, Fun and Celebrations) Diane Hodges provides countless ideas for “driving your staff happy.” Here Diane shares a few ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week, May 1-7. (04/11/2011)

Plan a Heroes Fair for National Heroes Day
Today, the word hero gets tossed around lightly. The word’s true definition has become lost in translation. National Heroes Day (May 14) and Heroes Fairs aim to inspire students to rediscover forgotten heroes and the character traits that made them who they are.

Is a Digital Library in Your School’s Future?
More and more schools are taking steps toward the digital library of the future. Most of them are taking tentative steps by purchasing laptops and some e-books for student research. Others are jumping in and not looking back. (04/01/2011)

March 2011

Infusing Math Each Day Builds Students’ Math Competency
During this month – Math Awareness Month – consider adding a copy of Doing Math in Morning Meeting to your school’s professional development library. This new book from the folks at The Responsive Classroom is packed with practical ideas for building math competency. (03/28/2011)

Is It Time You Went to Social Media Bootcamp?
Everyone is talking about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. If you aren’t taking advantage of those resources to tell your school’s stories – and to connect with students, parents, faculty, and alumni – it might be time to head to bootcamp! Included: Tips for getting started with social media. (03/21/2011)

More Schools Make the Move to Recess Before Lunch
Has your school joined with others that are putting recess before lunch? Principals who have done this say kids are calmer when lunch comes after recess, they throw away less food, and they return to their classrooms ready to learn. (03/14/2011)

Groovin’ Groceries Combines Music, Nutrition Education
Award-winning lyricist Lori Cook and composer David Blamires have teamed up to create a memorable cast of characters and songs that run the musical gamut from disco to hip hop. During Nutrition Month, make a point to learn more about their Groovin’ Groceries program. (03/07/2011)

February 2011

K-5 Students Celebrate 1 Million Books Read
Students at the Harlem Success Academy had a big reason for celebrating last week. The banner unveiled that day tells it all: 1,000,000 Books Read! How did they do it? And how are other school leaders building reading achievement? (02/21/2011)

School Wellness Policies Are Making a Difference
Thanks to new wellness policies, carrot sticks and fruit slices replaced cupcakes and brownies as the snack of choice for recent Valentine’s parties. New policies are changing the way of life in many schools -- from the lunchroom to the classroom. (02/21/2011)

Schools to Shine Spotlight on Reading on Read Across America Day (March 2)
The students and staff at one Florida elementary school created this video to share their enthusiasm and love for reading. Great activities like this have become the hallmark of celebrations held at schools all over American on Read Across America Day in March. (02/14/2011)

School Videos Full of Inspiration
If you’re looking for inspiring stories about students, forget the major TV networks. The SchoolTube Web site is the place to look! That’s where we found these three stories that are sure to inspire and might even provide ideas for activities you can start up in your school. (02/07/2011)

January 2011

Survey Says…
Several interesting surveys have come to light in the past month. They shed light on the impact ereaders have on the amount of reading people do; the positive impact that writing about test stress can have on test results; and the impact technology can have on young children kids learning life skills. (01/31/2011)

Principal Blogger Having ‘Tutu’ Much Fun
Blogs are a great tool for keeping in touch with the school community. “If something happens in school today that I want to share, why wait?” says Massachusetts school principal Rob Ackerman. That goes for the day Ackerman gave his ballet command performance! (01/25/2011)

Cool School Tool #6: ‘Time Monsters’ Teaches Kids to Tell Time
Telling time can be a difficult skill for many kids, but thanks to the ‘Time Monsters’ Web page, many kids are successfully learning to figure out half-past and quarter-to. Time Monster lessons and quizzes have kids telling time in no time! (10/11/2010)

Blog Bits: Video Motivates Science Fair Interest; Student Perfectionists; Fund for Teachers
A high-school student has created a terrific video that is sure to motivate middle schoolers’ interest in their science fair. Plus: Is perfectionism in young students a good thing? and the Fund for Teachers celebrates 10 years of making teachers’ learning dreams come true. (01/04/2011)

December 2010

‘Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget’
The gang at Sesame Street introduced some new characters last week. Among other things, the new Super Foods Super Heroes team offers a guide with workshop ideas for schools and other providers. The guide includes videos, songs, discussion questions, and handouts. (12/11/2010)

Is Your Holiday Shopping Done?
Holiday shopping got you stressed out? The NAESP Foundation has a great way to avoid traffic at the mall and pick up a nice gift at the same time. Plus a school grab-bag gift idea and -- thanks to a teacher in Maine -- a cool school fundraising idea for holiday time next year. (12/04/2010)

November 2010

Teachers Create Classroom Wish Lists Online
Teachers spend a lot of out-of-pocket money on classroom supplies, so one company has created a free tool -- similar to a bridal registry -- where teachers can create a wish list of items from the registry listings that parents and other community members might purchase for them. (11/25/2010)

Fun Challenges Engage Kids, Families in Reading
Principals do all sorts of crazy things to encourage students to pick up books. Maybe youve kissed a pig, been dunked, or raced an office-chair down Main Street? Those are just a few of the stunts principals have arranged to encourage and celebrate ravenous readers. (11/15/2010)

Backpacks Help Feed Hungry Kids All Weekend Long
As the nations unemployment rate has grown so has the number of backpack programs. More and more schools are sending kids home on Friday with a backpack of food that will fill the gap and ensure that kids would show up Monday hungry for learning, not for food. (11/05/2010)

Perks for Parent Involvement Cant Be a Bad Thing
A new program in Detroit rewards parents by giving them points for participating in school activities, points that can be traded for discounts at local businesses. But detractors say that such bribes wont work. Included: Dozens of parent-involvement ideas that work. (11/01/2010)

October 2010

Did Your School Miss Out on Walk to School Day Fun This Year?
More than 3,200 U.S. schools participated in "Walk to School" events this month. Was your school one of them? If not, here are some tips for planning a cool event that will build community as it creates memories for students, families, and staff at your school. (10/22/2010)

Is Your School's Food Drive Just Ahead? Check Out Some Fun Ideas!
Many schools run school-wide food drives around the Thanksgiving and December holidays. If your school is planning a food drive for the weeks ahead -- or anytime -- here are some fun ideas you might use. Included: Stuff a Turkey fun and food drive word problems. (10/15/2010)

Principal Turnover Impacts Student Achievement
Some large school districts experience principal turnover rates as high as 25 percent a year. According to a new study, high turnover rates have a negative impact on student achievement -- but district-level leadership can help stem, or eliminate, that impact. (10/11/2010)

Anti-Bullying Videos Share Powerful Messsages
During October, thousands of schools will recognize Bullying Prevention Month with special school-wide assemblies and teacher lessons. These videos and other resources will make powerful additions to your assembly program or classroom discussions. (10/04/2010)

September 2010

Cool School Tool #5: Superteacher Site a Treasure for Teachers
Add to your super hero status by sharing with your teachers. The site offers veritable kryptonite for student boredom! The site is created by educator Tim Wei, who over the years has gathered a hard drive full of great work sheets. (09/27/2010)

Thank a Teacher Video Has Many Uses
This "Thank a Teacher" video might be used to start or end a staff meeting. Its message is a terrific one to share with your school's parent community on Open House night, too. Indeed, you will find uses throughout the school year for this video's inspiring message. (09/20/2010)

NBC Embarks on Education Nation Summit
NBC News is about to embark on its first Education Nation Summit. The Summit will convene the foremost policymakers, educators, business leaders, and engaged citizens in a discussion about the challenges, solutions, and innovations on todays education landscape. (09/13/2010)

Build Students S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G Skills This Year
Ten-foot-tall letters might proclaim a S-H-C-O-O-L zone in North Carolina, but these resources from BigIQkids and Education World will help make certain that students in your s-c-h-o-o-l can spell that word and hundreds of other commonly misspelled words. (09/07/2010)

May 2010

Senior Students Play Active Roll in Welcoming Newbies
When school opens next fall, will the oldest students in your school play an active roll in welcoming -- and mentoring -- the incoming class? Students in two schools offer lessons in how its done and why its important. (05/24/2010)

Cool School Tool #4: 'Mouse Mischief' Gives Teachers Immediate Feedback
Have you had a chance to check out Microsofts new Mouse Mischief tool? This new freebie from Microsoft is an easy way to engage students and give teachers immediate feedback about how their lessons are going. (05/17/2010)

Get Kids Moving During Fitness Month
At a time when many school districts are paring back physical education programs, some others are beefing up PE. Doing so is leading to improved morale and increased student achievement, they say. (05/10/2010)

PTA Recognizes Outstanding Family-School Partnerships
The winners of this years PTAs annual family-school partnership awards were announced last week; so this is a perfect time to take a look at some nice free resources for building home-school relations in your school. (05/03/2010)

April 2010

Keeping Learning Alive As the Countdown to Summer Gets Underway
With state tests behind you and the school year winding down, the first reaction might be to slide into summer. But many principals encourage teachers to keep the learning alive during the countdown to summer. (04/26/2010)

Games Add Elements of Fun, Much More, to Math Learning
As this years Math Awareness Month celebration draws to a close, share with parents news of a study about the benefits of math games. Included: Paper-and-pencil math games perfect for at-home play. (04/19/2010)

Dust Off That Childrens Book Youve Always Wanted to Publish
Every principal has a million stories to tell. But if youve ever thought That story would make a great book, the time is now to write that book. A national principals association is opening doors for you! (04/12/2010)

Plan a Family Math Night During Math Awareness Month
If youve never held at Family Math Night at your school, Math Awareness Month is the perfect time to set the wheels in motion for an event next year. Three schools Math Nights illustrate how much fun this event can be. (04/05/2010)

March 2010

Get Set to Celebrate Books During School Library Month, Childrens Book Week
Your students might not have appeared on Oprahs show like the kids at Ocoee Middle School did earlier this month, but that doesnt mean you cant get them as motivated to read as the kids at OMS are. (03/29/2010)

Do Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver Stand a Chance?
First Lady Michelle Obama and chef Jamie Oliver stand on the front lines of Americas battle against obesity. Both have plans to win the war one family, one school, one community at a time. (03/22/2010)

Blog Bits #4:
Cookies for Kids With Cancer; Hip-Hop Teaches Vocabulary, More

In Blog Bits #4, we share news of two organizations. One helps schools and other groups raise money for pediatric cancer research while the other uses hip-hop to engage learning across the curriculum. (03/15/2010)

On the School Bus: Silence Is Golden
School leaders could never hope for silence on a school bus, but some are leading efforts to improve behavior and reduce bullying on the big yellow Blue Birds. Read about two districts efforts. (03/08/2010)

February 2010

The Fourth R: Making the Case for Recess
A new survey of school principals reveals that most see the benefits of recess, but they also see the discipline problems it creates. Two groups are working to solve those discipline problems for principals. (03/01/2010)

What Did You Learn in School Today? (A Gift for Parents)
Mother: What did you learn in school today?
Son: Not enough. I have to go back tomorrow.
Youve heard all the jokes. But sending kids home with something to say when parents ask What did you learn in school today? is a gift that can keep on giving. (02/22/2010)

School-Wide Olympic Events Spur Excitement, Learning
Many schools are capitalizing on Olympic excitement to teach about countries and cultures, build skills, and emphasize teamwork. Are you taking advantage of this huge opportunity -- this ultimate teachable moment? (02/15/2010)

The More Kids Read, the Better They Read: Motivating Kids to Read School-Wide
With the NEAs Read Across America event just around the corner (March 2) and Get Caught Reading Month coming up in May, this is an ideal time to share some super new resources you can use to encourage reading across the grades. (02/08/2010)

School Service Projects Teach Many Lessons
In recent days, Ive been inspired by three news stories about students community service projects that are teaching kids the curriculum as they instruct valuable in giving back to the community and others in need. (02/01/2010)

January 2010

Kids and Media: Helping Parents Set Limits on Media Use
The results of a recent survey about kids and media use -- and its impact on schoolwork -- comes as no surprise to educators. Now we are in a position to provide resources to help parents to set media-use rules at home. (01/25/2010)

Blog Bits #3: Bill Nye, Principal Crowned 'King', Teaching About Money, More...
Bill Nye, known worldwide as The Science Guy, is back with a new passion -- math! Plus, a birthday party fit for a king stands as a testament to one principal's special brand of servant leadership. More... (01/18/2010)

School Projects Support the Troops
Soon after his students performed a song honoring our troops, Michael Souders posted it to the Web. The video has received tens of thousands of hits, but way more heartwarming are the letters Souders has received. Included: Thank You, Soldiers sheet music. (01/11/2010)

Word of the Day Builds Vocab, Test Scores in K-12 Schools
Many schools present a Word of the Day to students as part of their morning announcements or news broadcasts. Does yours? If you dont, creating a program couldnt be easier. We've provided all the resources you might need. (01/05/2010)

December 2009

Schools Team Up to Turn Off the TV
The latest Nielsen numbers indicate that kids are watching more TV than ever. As a principal, you can help parents monitor their kids TV time with these tips for Building a Balanced TV Diet and by planning a special school-wide TV Turnoff Week. (12/29/2009)

NBPTS To Certify Principals Too
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) announced the development of a national certification for principals. The program will be the gold standard for the profession -- a professional growth experience second to none in the field. (12/14/2009)

Teachers Got Talent
Have you a teacher who can nail a back flip? A staff member who can do a spot-on Barney the Dinosaur impression? Share these teacher videos and you've got the makings of a fun community-building Teachers Got Talent competition. (12/07/2009)

Blog Bits #2
In this Blog Bits entry: A gardening grant opportunity from Welch's and Scholastic that teachers and parents won't be able to resist, a toolkit for engaging parents in dropout prevention, and another fun math challenge you can present to students. (12/01/2009)

November 2009

Teachers Honored on the ‘Walk of Hearts’
Joe Andrews had been looking for a way to honor teachers in his community who change kids’ lives. Thanks to his determination, a “Walk of Hearts” -- modeled after Hollywood’s famous sidewalk tributes -- is now a reality. Is it an idea that could work in your community too?

Principals Encourage Parents to Turn Dinnertime Into School-Home Connection Time
The upcoming holidays are a perfect opportunity to remind your students parents about the importance of family meals and the opportunity they present to make school connections. Of Principal Concern offers tips, plus cut-and-paste content for your school-to-home newsletter.

Cool School Tool #4:
Kids Celebrate Earth With 100 Generations Song

Plan a memorable school-wide celebration with this fun and educational way to get students thinking about Earth. Classes can be part of something larger as they write their own lyrics to a song and connect with kids around the world. (11/10/2009)

Cuts, Cuts, Everywhere: Even Principals Get the Ax
Just when we thought that budget cuts could not cut deeper, our hurting economy is forcing schools and districts to dig deeper for line items to chop. Some of the cuts we have read about recently make sense in trying times, but others verge on the absurd. (11/03/2009)

October 2009

Students Hard Work Educates Community About Recycling
Begun by Purdy (Missouri) High School students, the Purdy Recycling Project has become a community-wide program that is turning a profit, raising scholarship money for students, and serving as a model for similar programs in other communities. (10/27/2009)

Using Music to Teach Content Gets Rave Reviews from Students
Today, more than ever, wise teachers recognize the power that music possesses to teach new and difficult concepts. Take Alex Kajitani, for example. He is Californias Teacher of the Year for 2009, but he is probably best known as the Rappin Mathematician. (10/20/2009)

Heimlich Training for Staff Can Be a Life-Saver
The family of a boy who choked to death in an Indiana elementary schools cafeteria was recently awarded $5 million in a lawsuit against the district. That award has spurred many schools to focus attention on training staff in the Heimlich maneuver. (10/13/2009)

Blog Bits #1
My files are full of ideas to share, so from time to time I will clean out my files by sharing a few bits and pieces --- things of interest, things to think about, or things to share with your staff or students. (10/06/2009)

September 2009

New Study Identifies Self-Control as One Key to Student Success
Teaching kids the skills of self-control used to be a parent's job, but most educators realize they play an important role in developing this skill. You can play a role too, with these valuable resources for your teachers and your students' parents. (09/29/2009)

'Tips for Teachers' Cards: Free for the Asking
Four "Tips for Teachers" cards serve as handy references for helping kids who deal with ADHD, thoughts of suicide, bullying, or abuse. Order a set of the complimentary cards to give to your teachers during American Education Week. (09/24/2009)

The Flu in School: Tools You Can Use
The news is full of dire predictions about the current flu season. But with a little prevention education you can help fend off its impact in your school. Included: A Sneezing 101 video, handwashing stickers, flu flyers to send home, more. (09/16/2009)

Video PD Spurs Engagement Through Humor
When administrators of the Mesquite (Texas) Independent School District wanted to drive home goals related to raising test scores and doing more classroom walkthroughs, one tool they used was humorous video parodies of popular TV commercials. (09/08/2009)

May 2009

Dictionary Project Will Soon Give Away Its 10 Millionth Dictionary
More than 9.9 million children have received dictionaries thanks to the generosity of sponsors who have participated in The Dictionary Project. Last year, about 2.5 million dictionaries were handed out. Have they handed out dictionaries in your school? (05/15/2009)

Cool School Tool #3:
Stop the Summer Slide With the Scholastic Summer Challenge

The summer slide and research about summer reading losses are two of the reasons that Scholastic has create the Scholastic Summer Challenge. As always, Scholastic has created tons of fun for kids as well as great resources for parents and teachers. (05/08/2009)

April 2009

Kids Get Off Their Butts, Join the Movement
Most educators know that physical activity helps improve a kids ability to focus and learn. That connection between movement and learning has been getting a lot of press lately -- from studies to standing desks and stability balls. Gum chewing too. (04/21/2009)

How Did Your Students Recognize Earth Day?
Kids are celebrating Earth Day at two appropriately named schools. Read about a catalog canceling program at The Park School and a "See Ya" Styrofoam effort at The Garden School. What green activities did your students participate in on this Earth Day? (04/21/2009)

Every-Day Practice Pays: The Proof Is in the Test Scores
I've always been a firm believer that skills reinforced regularly are skills that stick. I was reminded of this today as I read about teachers in North Carolina who created "Hammer the Grammar," a school-wide effort to take the pain out of grammar instruction. (04/16/2009)

A Tough Act to Follow: Colin Powell Addresses NAESP Convention
Few people could follow an opening act like Sheldon Dudley's. The third grader from Louisiana opened a general session of the 2009 NAESP convention. He brought down the house with his inspiring rendition of our national anthem. Then it was up to Colin Powell... (04/08/2009)

March 2009

Thirty Poets in Thirty Days
As the principal poet in your school, take a look at Thirty Poets/Thirty Days, a free online event in April that spotlights never-before-seen poems from Jack Prelutsky, Jon Scieszka, Jane Yolen, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Kenn Nesbitt, and 27 others. (03/31/2009)

What Are You Doing to Motivate Your Test Takers?
Will your students be duct-taping you to the wall if they improve their scores on state tests this year? Principal stunts have always been great motivators for kids, but if youre not really a stunt person, there are plenty of other ways... (03/26/2009)

Cool School Tool #2:
Geocaching Is Caching On in Schools

Are your students engaged in geocaching? Geocaching, a kind of high-tech treasure hunt, is caching on in schools around the country. Many schools, after-school programs, and community groups are using geocaching to engage students. Here are just a few... (03/18/2009)

In Face of Budget Cuts, Principals Get Creative
The economy is on edge, and schools are not immune to the current downturn. That fact has spurred some principals to take matters into their own hands -- like the Arizona principal who took her schools need for supplies public by posting this telling message on her schools marquee... (03/12/2009)

Offering Green for Grade$
Chicago's Green for Grade$ program joins a growing number of programs that reward student grades, like the Capital Gains program in Washington, D.C. But what if your district or community is too cash-strapped to offer a program that pays performance incentives to kids? (03/06/2009)

February 2009

Who Said Rewards Dont Work?
Certainly Id like to think that making Honor Roll is reward enough and that ca$h supplements arent necessary. And perhaps giving gift certificates to the Golden Arches doesnt send the best message to your Citizen of the Month. But the fact is that rewards... (02/28/2009)

Cool School Tool #1:
Build Your Wild Self

From time to time, I will share in this blog a cool tool for schools. This might be a tool you will want to use, or share with your staff, or pass along in a parent newsletter. The tools presented here will be simple or fun or both. This one fits the... (02/25/2009)

So Michael Phelps Took a Few Hits on a Bong...
But What If That Had Been a School Principal?

What if a photo surfaced in your town or one nearby that showed a school principal smoking marijuana? School principals may not earn gold medals for their accomplishments -- and they certainly dont find their mugs on cereal boxes as much as they might... (02/17/2009)


Meet Our Blogger

Gary Hopkins is our blogger -- our "principal contributor," if you will. Since 1997, Hopkins has been editor in chief of He has created numerous practical features for school leaders, including Education Worlds popular Principal Files series and Newsletters R Us, a collection of free copy-and-paste features for principals to use in their staff and parent newsletters. Prior to joining EducationWorld, Hopkins was a managing editor of Weekly Reader, the childrens classroom newspaper, and a third-grade classroom teacher. If that isn't enough "school stuff" for you, at one time he even lived in an old school! A native New Englander, and a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, his outside interests include collecting autographs and cheering on the Boston Red Sox.


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