Friday, April 14, 2017

Parent Camp Reflection

Recently our school hosted a brand new event. It was our version of a Parent Camp, which is an event modeled after EdCamp professional developments for educators. I introduced the idea to our staff as an opportunity to do something new, something different, something better than what we’ve always done.


Schools need to continuously evolve in regards to how we communicate and engage with our parent communities. This is something that I am passionate about. I know the value of people’s time. From a parent’s perspective, especially, I understand. As a result, when the parents of our students are giving us their time, it should be our obligation to find ways to make that time as meaningful as possible.


Our intention was to have different conversations with our parent community once we had them within our school walls. We didn't want to talk at them; we wanted to talk with them. We didn’t want a monologue; we wanted a dialogue. We didn't want everyone to hear the exact same thing because not everyone needs and/or wants to hear the exact same thing. We wanted to differentiate for our parents like we know we need to differentiate for our teachers and differentiate for our students.


We’re a school of over 500 students. Assuming that the majority of our students have two parents, that is approximately 1,000 parents within our school community. Prior to our event, I’d thought about what number I’d be pleased with in regards to attendance. 150 parents. That was my goal.  A head count during the evening totaled 28 parents. I was dejected. At the conclusion of the evening, I was visibly dejected.


I know better. Rarely do I wear my emotions on my sleeves. But I’m human. I slipped-up. It took me a good night’s sleep and a multi-mile run in the morning, but within ten-hours I had re-embraced the positive attitude that I preach. Choose your attitude. My bad.


I'm a leader, and if I want staff and students to exhibit a positive attitude and a growth mindset then I need to model what I expect. Always. To F.A.I.L. is simply the First Attempt in Learning. Failure is a requirement when we’re talking about the process of learning. It’s NOT a reason to be ashamed.


During the Parent Camp, the conversations that I had with parents were amazing! Upon further reflection, I realize that if our Parent Camp was beneficial for one parent (and/or teacher) then it was a success. We solicited feedback from those that attended (and those that did not attend) our Parent Camp. Our feedback was positive. We received some really good ideas about the advertising, content, and timing of any future Parent Camp that we’ll host.


We’re going to try again. The positive impact that this event has the potential to produce is too great. It wouldn’t be fair to throw in the towel after just our first attempt.

“Try something new. It's OKAY to fail.” Oskar Cymerman via Educators Lead Podcast

Sunday, April 2, 2017

I Don't Like Making People Unhappy

It's hiring season.

Recently, I was in-on an interview where the candidate was asked a typical question about what do you do when a colleague, parent, etc. is unhappy with a decision you've made/something that you’ve done?

The candidate started to answer: (Pause…Smile…) “I don't like making people unhappy.” (...Awkward laughter)

Some people might not like this response. This candidate lacks the backbone needed for this job. They've got to be tough. They've got to be able to confront difficult situations. Those are some of the things that they might be thinking.

Maybe, but...maybe not. Who wants to make people unhappy? Do we want to hire someone that enjoys making people unhappy? NO!

There are certain things that must be addressed. Some of these things require fierce conversations, and sometimes they result in making other people unhappy. But that doesn't mean that we have to enjoy that process. In fact, I would be extremely uncomfortable working with someone who took satisfaction from making other people unhappy. That’s not what we should be about as educators, and that’s not what we should be about as people.

“Don't mistake my kindness for weakness.” Morgan Wright

So this hiring season (and every hiring season), let’s make sure that we are filling our vacant positions with kind people. Let’s make sure that our schools are filled with kind people. #kidsdeserveit

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Van Allen Pride

This is the third of four blog posts that I am sharing to elaborate on our work for re-creating our school’s mission/vision (First blog, linked - Inspire Learning; second blog, linked - Act with Empathy).

As a staff, we identified Happiness and Commitment as core values within our school. As a smaller team, we took those words and created the phrase Feel Pride. Based off of feedback that we received, Feel Pride became Van Allen Pride.

What follows is the thought process (as well as my own elaboration) for how and why we went from Happiness and Commitment to Van Allen Pride.

Pride isn’t arrogance, and it isn’t boastful. Instead Pride comes from feelings of self-respect, satisfaction, and accomplishment. Pride is a good thing. Pride is NOT something that we should ever be ashamed of feeling. Pride is something that we should always have in regards to all that we are doing. Feeling Pride correlates with strong levels of commitment and intense feelings of happiness.

In his book Beyond Basketball Coach K’s Keywords for Success, Mike Krzyzewski describes it (Pride) as, “A feeling you get from being a part of something bigger than you.” We want staff, students, parents, and other community members to have that feeling of Pride from being a part of Van Allen Elementary School. Krzyzewski goes-on to say, Pride is putting, “Your signature on everything that you do - your best.”

At the end of one of my all-time favorite picture books, The Dot, Vashti's character hands the paper to the boy and says to him, “Please...sign it.” That’s Pride. Put your name on everything that you do. Let other people know that it is your work. Always give your best work, knowing that your work is attached to your name. And then feel good about your work. Feel good about your effort. Feel Pride. Feel Pride in Van Allen. Feel Pride in everything that you do that is associated with Van Allen. Feel Pride that you are a part of all that we are accomplishing at Van Allen.

#VAPride
Via The Dot written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds

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