Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Don't Make Resolutions, Make Promises.

Everyone makes resolutions. And, almost everyone breaks them within months, if not weeks.

Promises on the other hand, can not be broken. You have said "promise" many times over to family, friends and colleagues and each time you have followed through on what it is you have stated you would do. Promises happen.

As you reflect on the year closing out and are thinking about the New Year approaching, consider what lies ahead and what it is you want to accomplish personally and professionally.

Once you have that initial list, dwindle it down. Not that you can't achieve all that's there but let's keep it practical. And, even though we are over-achievers by nature let's model what we share with our students. 

Now that you have that list, put a time frame to it. This ensures that you can't let a date on the calendar come and go without reacting to what it is you have promised to accomplish.

For me, reflecting through blogging will stay at the top of my "promise list" as will remaining committed to the #Compelledtribe. From there, I will promise to grow professionally through my interactions with others both in the building, the district and the online PLN that I have so passionately found to rely on for my daily dose of energy. Yes, I will continue to tweet, and "chat". 

I also promise to learn new ways to connect, reflect and be better at what I do. Voxer needs to happen. Therefore, it will.

And finally, I promise to keep balance in my life with my family and my work. I am only as good as the relationship that exists between both. 

Best wishes on your list of promises. Keep them simple yet purposeful and make them so that they can be supportive of the growth you are hoping to achieve. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thanks to You, I Learned.

I learned a lot this year. In fact, it was a year like no other. I grew as a leader and a learner. My colleagues became my inspiration. My work was my passion. I found balance.

Hopefully you can say the same.

Looking back, there are three things that summed up my year. Simply, without these, I am not sure I would be where I am today.

I led with no regrets. 

When taking risks, I focused on falling forward.

And, with great significance, I listened.

As I close the books on 2014 and gear up for the year ahead, I know that there are many people to thank. To my colleagues I work with day in and day out, you are so much of my motivation. To my Professional Learning Network beyond my school and my district, I am forever grateful for your desire to share your knowledge, your perspective and your passions.

With that, I end the year as I started, with reflection. The connections, the collaboration and the interactions are irreplaceable. I am better thanks to you.

Happy Holidays!

2014 Fueling Education favorite reads:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Taking Inventory

Find the time, make the effort. We are writers. We blog, so therefore we reflect. It is our nature.

The time has come, where I reside, winter break is near. With that, I begin the process of taking inventory.

Time to check the pulse and see how deep I have dove this year. Time to measure what has been accomplished, or not. I recognize that in order to move forward I have to know where I have been. I believe that my future is only as good as the path that I have walked in my past. It is soon time to set the course, again.

Being an educator, a middle level Principal, I am grateful for the people I have been surrounded by, the lessons I have been taught and the encounters that have influenced me. My environment is part of who I am.

With that, I am taking inventory. So far this year I have:

Explored new paths to solve old problems.
Embraced change.
Inspired others.
Failed, and persevered.
Empowered colleagues. Fostered leaders.
Became the student.
Made, owned and learned from mistakes.
Built relationships.
Laughed. And cried.

And, there will be another list in a few short weeks reminding me of the work yet to be done. As educators we are never done. We continue to extend our learning beyond the confines of our walls, the hours of the day or the positions that we hold. I am committed to being the servant leader I am supposed to be.

Take inventory of your year thus far. As we start a new year, either pick up where you left off or be ready to lead like never before.

Friday, December 12, 2014

And Then it Happened

We have all had "that" teacher.

You know, the one that made the difference in our lives to direct us to be educators ourselves. The very teacher that when asked twenty years later, "Why did you get into the field of education?" We answer without hesitation, "because of: insert name here". It is the teacher that we each remember without a moments pause who made a difference in our lives as learners.

This is a story of a teacher that had spent more hours staying fixed to his traditional methods of teaching than most of us spend time investing in what we should plan next. He fought change. He stayed true to his pedagogy. He was convinced that "this too shall pass".

And then it happened. I was witness to something awesome. "That teacher" was discovered.

He had been listening. He had been doing his homework. He was quietly engaging in conversation with his colleagues, reading the emails and books that had been passed his way and had opened his mind to the possibility that he could be both the teacher he was most comfortable with AND also be "that teacher".

It didn't happen overnight. It took hours of discovery and patience. There were gentle nudges from those around him and modeling of what could occur.

As you lead, remember that the results you may be seeking may not be instantaneous. As teachers of students or a leader of teachers, we can become better at what we do by following the same simple steps as this teacher did.

Dive into conversations with each other, stay current in the world of instruction and observe what others are doing around us. We will get better at our craft. Like a flower needs the sun, the soil and water to grow, we too need that same nurturing and care.

In the end, students will continue to request to be in his course. However, now more than ever his lessons will be directly tied to best practice, student engagement, offer personalized learning opportunities and infuse choice and voice into the daily interactions and instruction. Teaching and learning will be more authentic and that much more rich with meaning. Students will learn in an environment that is best for their academic path. He has become that teacher.

Friday, December 5, 2014

If You Inspire Others, Who Inspires You?

(courtesy of

You are an inspiration to many in the field of education. Others look up to you. Your colleagues are always learning from the knowledge you bring to the table. Students and parents are listening to the message of your class or school and anticipate the next opportunity to grow.

Simply stated, you inspire others.

So, who inspires you?

For me, there is a simple answer. I turn to those that are reading this blog, or my twitter feed, or attending our professional conversations at school or those that sit down in the chair across from me and take the time to talk, and listen. Many times those conversations, in person or online, is just what I need to be better at what I do. For many of you it is these same platforms that motivate you each day.

Human instinct, and being humble, will keep most of us from recognizing that we are in fact, inspirational. As I think through what each of you offer me in my growth as a leader, here are the commonalities:

  • You challenge me. It works because I am open to the conversation. Don't challenge someone or something just because of your personal and/or professional beliefs but look at the situation holistically and through the eyes of a child and the lens of the organization. 
  • You are a problem solver. If you bring me a problem, bring me some possible solutions. From there, we can process and determine the best course of action. I appreciate those that want to make the system better.
  • You are critical. Share your constructive criticism, commonly known as "feedback". This is much different than complaining. Feedback offers direction, complaining just weighs down the progress. Ask questions, accepting answers is a part of the process.
  • You have an open mind. You are only as strong as those we are surrounded by. Turning to teachers, parents and the students is critical to our success. Many times it is the youngest minds that give me the most inspiration to be better.
  • You are a leader. Regardless of your title we each have the capacity to lead. Look at your role and find a way to offer your insight and your passion. You don't need a "title" to be a leader you just need to have the desire to make a difference.

I appreciate those that I work with, and those that I connect with, that offer me the inspiration I need each day to lead. I am better for my students and my teachers and my community because of what you have taught me.

With that, continue to inspire others. You are amazing at it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stay the Course

The idiom "Stay the Course" means to persevere, endure to completion. Educators live this. Educators work diligently, and passionately, to accomplish all of their tasks in a day. Those that do so give the rest of us something to strive toward.

The reality, however, is that many days we fall short of completing our lists. Not due to lack of desire or passion but often to the reality of our work. Our days are not even close to consistent. That comes with the territory and we knew that when we took the charge to be teachers and administrators.

Furthermore, to "stay the course" we also know that one has to be self-disciplined, organized, focused and have a thorough understanding of what their end result is going to be. Character traits that we each posses at any given time without a doubt. However to apply these each day with each task, challenging at best.

For me, there is a "compass" that points me in the direction to ensure that I do not deviate from the intended course. And it takes each of these points, not always as simple as they may seem, to increase the likely-hood of reaching my intended outcome. They are:

Write it down. Once you have determined what your goal to accomplish is, make sure to write it down on a piece of paper, journal it or place it on an index card and post it in your office. When the tasks are big, make the post-it note even bigger. Make sure you can read what it is that you are hoping to accomplish so you have a constant reminder of where you are heading.

Find smart people, inspiring people, and surround yourself with them. I often share with others that without the support of those around me growing up, I would hardly be where I am today. Without hesitation I can give credit to certain people that were somehow placed along my path that helped guide me to where I am now. Whether a high school or college classmate, my first teaching colleagues or members of my administrative team, each person played a significant role in my success. And in todays digital world, we are connecting with those inspiration people each and every day. I make sure to find brilliant, inspirational people and surround myself with them.

Breathe in, and out. Too many times we get so focused on where we want to get to that we forget to catch our breath, take
inventory of where we are in the process and regroup to finish off the work that needs to get done. I am not suggesting we take long lunch breaks or drop it for a long period of time, just breathe, appreciate what has been done, and then get back to work. The more rushed you are the less productive you will be.

Fail and move on. We have all heard the stories of the Abe Lincoln and his lack of success with voters prior to his Presidency. The story of Michael Jordan being passed over for his basketball team. And of course, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and the stories of how their success came via a less then "traditional" academic path. The reality is that we are each going to fail from time to time. And, the harder we work and the more the more failures we will endure. Accept that it is a part of the process. The challenge therefore is simply to learn from those failures and move on. As we tell our own children as they stumble in life, "pick yourself up and brush yourself off". Failure is part of the process.

Remain focused. Now that you have your goal written out, have your support system in place and your permissions to fail, you are off and running on your endeavor. Keep in mind these familiar quotes:
If want something bad enough, go out and fight for it. 

Or, as Theodore Roosevelt shared; Nothing in life is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty...". 

So as you progress through your tasks each day or each week, remember to keep focused on what it is you truly want to get accomplished. Many great ideas have fallen short of coming to fruition because the mind behind the idea lost its way. If you believe in what it is you have set out to do, then finish what you have started.

It is those that stay the course that bring the greatest success to their own lives and those around them.