Thursday, October 19, 2017

Make Their Day - Change Their World

Several weeks ago I had my School Administration Manager Project "shadow." For those of you who are unaware of the "shadow" experience, he/she shows-up to your school wearing all black clothing and follows your every move. Every five minutes, the "shadow" notes what it is you are doing; deciding if the task is related to instruction or management. All the while, from the time the "shadow" arrives until the time the "shadow" leaves, they are not supposed to talk.

Depending on your choice of adjective, you might describe one of the days that I was being shadowed as: bad, busy, stressful, eventful, etc. For the record, in my mind it was an eventful day.

You see, on this particular day, I had multiple communications with our local police department concerning multiple incidents. At my site, interaction with law enforcement is a rarity. To have two incidents involving the police in a year AND especially not twice (in a year, let  alone a day)

Anyways, at the end of the day, my shadow said (to me), “You did a good job. You covered all your bases; you handled everything very calmly.”

Day, flipped.

I don’t usually have someone following me around to see my every move. I don't usually have someone that is able to give me this type of authentic feedback. However, on this day I did (and it meant the world to me). She made my day.

Two mornings later, I received an email from a parent. Her email expressed her gratitude in regards to an individualized comment that I had made to her son when walking through classrooms. She went on to say, "I just wanted you to know that your presence isn't going unnoticed and you're doing a great job."

I didn't make the comment to her son in hopes to get anything in return. I did it because I LOVE interacting with kids. I did it because while I might not change the world, I can make one comment like this to change someone's world. I can make their day.

Inspiration from Buddy Berry's keynote at ITEC 

It is amazing how when we act kindly towards others, kindness finds its way back around to us. Why don't we do this more often?! Why aren't we more intentional about this?!

Being frantically busy is not a good look, not for you, not for me, not for anyone.

My first "official" principal mentor emphasized how very rarely is there an actual emergency in education. Most of the issues that we face will still be there, waiting for us, the next morning. Yet, (a lot of) our actions don't always reflect this. We tend to treat everything as urgent; when we do this, we miss the little things that can bring such joy to our profession and our life.

So stop what you’re doing. Right now. It’s not that urgent. Take a moment to say thanks to someone, show them that they are appreciated, celebrate them.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Don't Become a Cynic

As Ferris Bueller famously said,
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 
This is especially true for educators, which is why reflecting (and blogging) is an important aspect of our job. Years come and years go at an ever increasingly rapid pace. I often times find it hard to pin point certain events that have influenced who I've become.  Yet, surprisingly, I can still recall sitting at my desk during my first year as a principal while having a phone conversation and thinking - I'm becoming a cynic.

This is NOT who I was. Nor was it who I wanted to become.

As a district and a school, this year, we've been spending a lot of time talking about our why. Why do you do what you? What drives you? What inspires you? What motivates you? What is your why? At the simplest level, mine is to make a difference in other people's lives; to inspire them.

We have to always keep that (our why) in the forefront of our minds. Because if we don't, it's easy to lose sight of our why. It's easy to get bogged-down with the day-to-day grind, and consequently forget about our why.

I like to think that I am a pretty positive and optimistic person. This doesn't happen by accident. We have to be intentional with our actions to remain positive and optimistic. We have to be intentional.

How? Here are some tips that help me always stay positive and optimistic.
  • Be connected - Find your tribe. find your like minded people, find your people that inspire you, find your people that push you to be a little better each day. Lean on these people, problem solve with these people, share with these people, and most importantly celebrate with these people.
  • Be balanced - Education (life) can be stressful. Find things that provide you with an outlet. Exercise, read, write, spend time with family and friends; whatever it is, do the things that you enjoy.
  • Be kind to others - Assume others are giving their best effort; assume others have positive intent. Always seek to understand.
  • Be kind to yourself, too - "Give yourself the grace to be imperfect." You aren't going to be perfect; no one is. Focus, instead, on getting better, bit-by-bit, day-by-day.
  • Be grateful - Think about all of the things that you have. Not everyone has all of these things. We sometimes get so caught up in all of the stuff that it can be easy to lose sight of this. Don't forget, perspective is key to life.
  • Look for the good - Because the more intentional you are about looking for good, the more good that you will find. 
  • Choose your attitude - Life happens. Situations occur that are outside of our control. Furthermore, we don't have control over other people. We do, however, always have control over how we respond. We have the power to choose the attitude that we embody.

Friday, September 22, 2017

#DotDay Reflections

Recently, while visiting classrooms, I was invited to participate in a project alongside our students in Mrs. LaRoche's 4th grade classroom. This had me reflecting...

It was September 15th. That's International Dot Day, the "holiday" that celebrates the book that Peter Reynolds wrote, The Dot. Mrs. LaRoche was introducing a Dot Day activity with her students. I should mention that The Dot is (at least one of) my favorite picture book(s). So I was honored that the Mrs. LaRoche invited me to stay longer AND participate with her students.

Taking a break from the busyness, which is the norm for school principals, was time well spent.

This was an investment in regards to the relationships that I have with this teacher and these students.

So as I sat in the classroom, designing my dot(s), I was showered with praise from the students telling me how good (and other adjectives) my creation looked. The celebration of my creation didn't come as a huge surprise. This is my sixth year as an elementary school principal, I'm aware of the celebrity status that I have with kids. Nonetheless, their praise had me thinking.

My experience in Mrs. LaRoche's classroom
mirrored this page from The Dot.

Like Derek Sivers claims in the video (above): what's obvious to you, is amazing to others. I didn't think that I was creating anything special, but the students in Mrs. LaRoche's class thought it was kind of special. This had me thinking, it is imperative that we find ways to share our work with others. You never know, it might be just what someone else needs.

The other thing is, until fairly recently, I never considered myself to be the creative type. I certainly did not think that I was much of an artist. It is just easier this way. I can just say, "I can't (insert art skill here)" or "I'm not good at (insert any skill here)."

But those responses are a cop-out. It's easier to say that you can't. It voids yourself of having to make any effort. It strips away any responsibility that you would have to take-on. It is a safe response, but no risk equals no reward. It is a weak response. It's represents a fixed mindset.

I take pride in regards to embodying a growth mindset. I believe that when we practice, we get better. I believe that when we give our best effort and persist, we can produce results that we might not have thought possible.