Day In the Life: Michael Abello of Piccolo School of Excellence
Principal Michael Abello of Piccolo School of Excellence has always been passionate about public education in Chicago. Michael is a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduate from Walter Payton College Prep. He earned a degree in business from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and launched his career in education by joining Teach For America after graduation. Inspired by his classroom experience, Michael pursued a Doctorate in Urban Education Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In his role as principal at Piccolo, he brings together his passion for education in Chicago with his business and data analytics skills. We caught up with Michael to get a glimpse into a typical day.
I wake up and the first thing I do every day is check my email. I try to ensure that if there are any problems that day – whether it’s a last minute staff absence or a discipline issue – I am able to plan for those early. I typically get to school around 7:15 am, an hour and a half before the 8:45 a.m. start of the school day. I want to start the day off with a plan that addresses teachers’ needs, ensuring that they are set up to be successful.
My favorite time of the day is when I get to stand outside the front doors at 8:25 a.m. to greet students and families as they come in. All of our students enter in one door unless they’re late, and it is an opportunity for me to see everyone. I bring my “on-track list” with me, which is a list of students who have 95 percent attendance or better and at least a C in math and reading. Students know to come see Mr. Abello about their on-track status if they don’t know it already. If you walk around Piccolo and talk to students, they can all tell you what it means to be on-track and why it is important. That is really powerful. Students are owning their learning. They’re taking accountability of where they are and where they want to be.
At 8:45 a.m., I’m in the auditorium with our fourth through eighth graders for our morning meeting. We begin when I say “hands go up!” and I wish everybody a good morning. We start with some announcements, and teachers share information about after school activities or upcoming programs. I try to say something super inspirational to start their day – then off they go! It’s a fun way of seeing all students, starting the day off fresh and sending a positive message.
Lots of Learning
I try to strive for at least 50 percent of my day to be instructionally focused. That means getting into classrooms to get a pulse check, or helping plan coaching and professional development. I have to know what is going on in classrooms to get a sense of how our professional development or programming is working out.
Lots of Meetings, Too
There are at least one or two meetings each day – individual meetings during teacher planning periods or meetings with our administrative team. We definitely use data as a driver and one of the things that I try to do is make that data accessible to everyone. I share an on-track report every other week, showing the reasons why each student is on or off track. I synthesize the data in a meaningful way by providing grade-level teams with a list of all students in their grades.
I meet with our Dean of Students at the end of the day, and she fills me in on student infractions and general behavior. It is a way for me to monitor that without having to be heavily involved in it throughout the day.
End of a Long Day
I usually stay until 6:00 p.m. but have gotten better at leaving on my early days at 4:30 p.m. My staff pushes me to keep to this, and I do the same for them. This helps supports work-life balance.
So how does Michael keep up with this busy schedule even on tough days?
On tough days, it’s all about the people! That’s what makes this possible – having an incredible group of people around you who support each other. The people are what get me through the tough days because I know I am not alone in this work. Kids are why we do this work, but what makes this work sustainable are the people around me.