Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finding Purpose, Giving Thanks

With the calendar turning and the holidays approaching we will spend moments of our days and weeks ahead showing and offering our gratitude to others. We will have an opportunity to define our purpose and to give thanks. This week is full of thanksgivings.

And just like that the names and faces of those that I am grateful for rushes to the forefront of my mind. This list continues to grow with each passing moment of each passing day of each passing year. As educators we are blessed by the people we are surrounded by.

It is one piece of my work that brings me back to center each and every day of every week of every month of every year. You, like me, realize that it is our relationships with others that provide us the moments that drive us to be grateful for others.

These powerful, everlasting relationships with students, teachers, parents and our school community becomes the driving force behind our successes and speaks to the culture of our organization. It is these very relationships that we never take for granted and we constantly remind ourselves of our purpose and our place.

As you plan for the remainder of your week and the bountiful feasts that await you, take a moment to reflect on the relationships you have nurtured, embraced and cultivated. Whether a student that says good morning to you as they enter the building, a teacher that takes an extra moment to email you their appreciation for something you have supported them with or a parent that drops by to leave a tray of treats for the office, each of these gestures affirm the thankfulness they posses for the efforts you have made to be present for them. It is the relationship that matters.

This Thanksgiving reflect on your purpose and take the time to give thanks to those around you. The relationships are at the heart of what we do year round.

And with that, I share this list of questions. It is not mine, it is from a post from Seth Godin in which he shares The Thanksgiving Reader. Take a moment to read, reflect, and respond. And above all else, have a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends near and far.

What’s the value of gratitude? 
Why does it even matter? 
Why aren't people, especially Americans, more grateful? 
What can we do to feel grateful the other 364 days of the year? 
Are older people more grateful than younger people? Or is it the reverse? 
We all know the value of connections, but where did the barriers come from and what can we do to topple them? 
Who’s the most grateful person you know? 
Who’s your gratitude role model? 
What is something—a conversation, advice you received, etc.—you became grateful for only well after it occurred? Why did it take you so long? 
Have you lived a life that deserves gratitude from others?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Finding Balance

As educators, we work long days and we give tirelessly of ourselves. We are relentless when asked to support the teaching and learning of our colleagues and our students. As a leader of educators and a teacher of students it is in our DNA to be present in all that we do. We give.

As educators, there is no calm, there is no rest. Our days are filled with welcomed chaos. The job never remains the same. The challenges and opportunities are in abundance. We don't say "no" when asked to take on a task. We do.

With this in mind, I encourage you to pause and to reflect and to consider the importance of balance.

As educators, finding balance in our lives can be the difference between our happiness and our demise. Finding balance can be the source of our greatness or our failure. When our lives are not balanced, we are not at our best. Lack of balance between work and home can ruin relationships, increase our stress and drive us away from what we are working to achieve. Lack of balance is a formula for disaster. In order to find balance, we must make it a priority. We act.

So, when push comes to shove, what gives? How can you devote the time and energy to each aspect of your life yet still have balance? If you truly want balance in your life, you might want to start here:

Prioritize the tasks at hand. You know what needs to be done and when and you know what can wait. Stay true to that, the rest will fall into place. Be committed to your schedule and to what matters most.
Practice what you preach. If you encourage others to take time for themselves, there is no need to wait yourself. Whether at work or at home, allow yourself to walk away from the tasks. Tomorrow is only a few hours away.
Unplug and step away from your device, the computer and most importantly, the emails. If being connected is part of your balance, enjoy that time but be cognizant of the time . Avoid sending working emails to your colleagues. If you send them, they read them. Give them a break too. 
Promote and permit those around you to explore all aspects of their work. Building these relationships and supporting others is significant in creating culture and working to find balance in leadership. Finding leaders within allows the tasks to be shared amongst many.
And finally, get active. If you truly want balance in your life, make sure you are on the move throughout your day both at work and away from the office. Whether it be a scripted routine, heading to the gym or moving about your classroom and your building. Get up and get on your feet.

Finding balance is half the battle. Maintaining that balance is the true test of your commitment to your work and to your health. There are aspects of your day that you have no control over, balance is not one of them. Therefore, find it. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Press Pause - The "R" Factor

(Artwork courtesy of Nicole Roholt, Art Teacher, Weaver Middle School)

Days are hectic, decisions need to be made, time is precious and as we know, difficult to come by. Teachers are working harder, smarter and more creatively than ever before. They continue to grind through each day and deliver quality lessons. Students are constantly evolving in their styles of learning and they crave to have their academic, social and emotional needs met at every turn. The high stakes of school is reaching new levels and our communities want the best from our educational institutions. The bar remains set high.

With all of that in mind and now more than ever, we need to press pause and we need to be exceptional.

Under the direction of Tim and Brian Kight, the two passionate founders of Focus3, our team of administrators and teachers in the Hilliard City Schools are learning the components of culture through an equation they refer to as The R Factor. And most specifically, how our actions, reactions and our behaviors get us the results we strive to achieve in the classroom and in our school community.

In our conversations, we are reminded that EVENTS are a given. Events are those daily interactions, decisions and directions of an individual and an organization. They are going to take place. For each of those events, there will be an OUTCOME. What that outcome will be is completely and entirely determined by one simple act, our RESPONSE to that event. That response will dictate the success and/or failure of our system of teaching and learning and of leading. And our response will define not only us as individuals but also speak to our culture.

E(vents) + R(esponse) = O(utcome)

With all that is on the line, it is imperative that we take a moment and press pause. My challenge to you is to think through a response that has happened recently that has generated an outcome that you either intended (or unintended) to occur and ask yourself, "Had I pressed pause and given greater attention to my response, would my outcome be more aligned to the feelings, beliefs, norms and expectations of my work, my employees and my customers?" That answer alone with determine your next move. This is The R Factor.

Primarily in the business world, their model of building an exceptional culture can be applied into districts and classrooms by having purposeful and spirited conversations and taking intentional steps to get the results your community seeks. I look forward to sharing more about the Kight's work and especially the work they are beginning to share with schools around the nation. Look for more, including your "20 square feet" and of course, always being Above the Line.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Day of PD - Putting the Shoe On The Other Foot

Rise and shine! Today, (if not at Hilliard University insert your day of professional development here ________) is a day you have been provided to grow as a learner. The shoe is officially on the other foot. Typically you are the teacher; today you change your role. Now that you are here (where ever that my be) what are you going to do with your time? My two cents - grab some coffee, connect to wifi and check out some pretty amazing teaching and learning. Here is some straightforward advice below to plan out your time. And, above all else, enjoy your day of PD!

Birds of a Feather Flock Together – As tempting as it is to travel from session to session with those you know, push yourself to break off and set your own path. Take notes, ask questions, meet new educators and make the learning interactive. Grow your Professional Learning Network.

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket – When we head off to conferences many times we go with a specific goal in mind. All be it goals are extremely important to have. In fact, they are essential to measure growth.  Make sure you get to sessions that have you thinking about who you are as a leader and learner. Goals take form based on your experiences. Branch out.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover – Often times we select sessions to attend based on title alone. As we have heard countless times, make sure to peel back the cover and read into the description and the presenter. Some of the best learning moments can come from the most unlikely of places. Explore your options.

Actions Speak Louder than Words – When all is said and done, the real test is taking the knowledge you have gained from your day of professional development and apply it to your everyday world. Take the time to reflect, formulate a plan to implement and set your actions steps. Be courageous.

I would encourage you, and challenge you, to push yourselves the entire day. You have a unique opportunity to grow yourselves leaps and bounds. By participating in these professional experiences, you are that much more in tune with the world of education and are showing your passion for teaching and learning. You are modeling for your students. Stay committed and know that your work is essential to not only your development but also for your student's experience.