Monday, January 30, 2017

Play: Getting Ready for #GSPD2017

Last year, Hamish Brewer (@brewerhm - a Principal friend in Virginia) introduced me to the FiSH Philosophy and I fell in love with its principles:

  • Choose Your Attitude
  • Make Someone's Day
  • Be There
  • Play

Play. Nick Proud (@Nick_Proud - my neighboring Principal in Iowa) Tweeted something the other day about how we (educators) shouldn't take ourselves so seriously. Agreed. In fact, I would advocate that we should be finding ways to make Play a routine part of our day. Most of us know that #KidsDeserveIt. But  Adults Deserve It, too.

Global School Play Day is taking place on Wednesday, February 1st. At Van Allen, we are asking each classroom to commit to at least one hour of Play. Linked is the note that we are sharing in preparation for Global School Play Day.

In preparation for this event, we asked teachers to Play. At our weekly Monday Meeting (this afternoon), I set games, and puppets, and puzzles out on the tables and wrote the following message that is pictured to the right.

Those were the directions that I gave. The intended outcome was that this would allow teachers to get a small sampling of what Global School Play Day could/would look like in their classrooms. My hope was that this would be 1) fun, 2) relaxing, 3) an opportunity to enJOY the company of colleagues in a setting that isn't the norm for us as educators, and 4) a preview for what to expect in classrooms on Wednesday.

And as one staff said to me on her way out of the room, "That was fun." Mission accomplished.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What's Your Sentence?

If George Couros writes it, I read it.

Recently, he wrote the post - A Vision for the "4 Non-Negotiables For All Schools"

In the post, George talks about revisiting his Educational Leadership Philosophy and attempting to capture it into a sentence. Embedded in that post is a POWERFUL video from Dan Pink:

Instant motivation.

For the past (almost) year, I have been able to identify four acts that I feel are essential to me in my role as a school leader:
  • Building relationships
  • Communicating
  • Learning
  • Choosing a positive attitude
Here's my initial/rough draft attempt at capturing these four actions into 'My Sentence':
Eric Ewald builds relationships through frequent communication and modeling a positive attitude to create a positive learning environment.
Here's the thing - above - that's my desired state. I know that I'm not perfect with in regards to any of those actions. I have room to grow and improve. And that's why Pink's second question that we should be asking ourselves is so important - 'Was I Better Today than Yesterday?'

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Pause to Reflect

Over the summer, as I was transitioning jobs I shared a couple of emails that I had received from teachers with my Principals In Action (PIA) Voxer group. These emails contained some of the most complimentary words that I had ever received. I was blown away. People are busy; taking the time to write such thoughtful notes takes time. These types of notes aren't written and/or shared often.

I was on cloud nine. The feelings that were provoked from receiving these emails were amazing.

Brad Gustafson, a principal friend in Minnesota, asked me to reflect and share what led to this. What led to the new position and the new year both starting out on such high notes? I punted. I don't know that I had the words, at the time, to actually reflect on my efforts.

Fast forward a couple of months, and again, I'm just blown away with some of the kind words that I am still receiving. These words come from cards that I've received from staff and families, and they come from complimentary words spoken to me in the community. The feeling is unbelievable to have these compliments verbalized with your family present.

I have kept Brad's request in the back of my head for the past four months. That paired with Lindsy Stumpenhorst, a principal friend in Illinois, issuing a challenge to our PIA Voxer group to blog about 2016 has further motivated me to write this blog. And then the final tipping point was reading Dean Shareski's book, Embracing a Culture of Joy, over winter break. His book, his words helped bring clarity to much of what I've set-out to do.

Starting back in July, when I met with staff, one-on-one, they spoke about our school culture needing to be an area of focus. As a result, we have been investing in the culture of our school.
"Gratitude is an essential ingredient for a joyful culture."
Dean Shareski, Embracing a Culture of Joy
I understand that receiving the kind complimentary words that I've recently received doesn't just happen by chance. I have, in fact, been very intentional with a lot of my actions (I've listed, maybe, the Top 10 of them, below). Most of these actions are not my own original ideas, but that is the beauty of having a Professional Learning Network (PLN); that is the beauty of having social media tools such as Twitter and Voxer to share ideas. Because we are all smarter together.

My Top 10 List of - Things that I've done to promote a positive school climate/culture:
  1. PositivePostItDay - I blogged (linked) about the concept of this day, long ago; I brought this activity to Van Allen right before Thanksgiving break.
  2. Our First Penguin Award - I also blogged (linked) about this, and the importance of celebrating risk taking.
  3. Twelve days of giving leading into winter break - some fun and silly themed days in an attempt to enhance the climate within our building.
  4. Hand-written holiday cards for staff.
  5. Sharing the positive things that are happening within our school via social media on a daily basis (see #RocketsRock)
  6. #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay - I have NOT been consistent with these. However, the positive impact that such phone calls have is enormous. Becoming more consistent with this is a top goal of mine in 2017.
  7. Daily, hand-written thank you cards to staff and students. I've seen some of these posted in prominent areas, which leads me to believe that they are meaningful to those that receive them.
  8. Birthday Selfies - I think that credit to this idea goes to Brad Gustafson. Spend a couple of minutes with kids on their birthdays. Talk to them. Take a picture with them (and then send it to Mom and Dad). Make them feel special.
  9. I choose my attitude. I own it. Nobody else does. It's on me. Hamish Brewer, a principal friend in Virginia, first got turned-on to this tenant of the FISH! Philosophy and it has been a game changer for how I think.
  10. Smiling - I also blogged (linked) about this, originally for the Kids Deserve It blog.
"The impact of receiving heartfelt gratitude cannot be understated."
Dean Shareski, Embracing a Culture of Joy
This (quote, above) cannot be ignored. We all deserve to have heartfelt gratitude shared with us. Per the FISH! Philosophy - Make Someone's Day! And then pay it forward. It is the fuel that can drive us to keep doing better and keep doing more as the days get longer. Gratitude - both giving it and receiving it - can be our motivation. And kids deserve to be with motivated adults.