Sunday, January 31, 2016

Unspoken Moments

As educators, we support each other and our students at all times in all sorts of ways. That is what we do. It is what drives us, it is our motivation and our charge.

Each year we are given teaching tools, resources and even support of our professional colleagues to ensure that we have the best of the best in front of our learners each day. Our toolboxes are full.

Each day our students enter the building and anticipate what will be taught. Teachers step through their doors and know that there are lessons and knowledge to be gained. Administrators do their part in the process and work to ensure that their are the tools that teachers need and students want in front of them each day.

Each moment we are a team. We are a collective unit. We are better together.

And often times, it is the unspoken moments that give us some of the greatest returns on the work that we do. Whether a nod of acknowledgement, a grin of gratitude or a gesture of thanks, it is these very moments that make our days as purposeful and productive as they are. Our days are consumed with simple yet powerful exchanges that often go unnoticed and not even recognized.

With that in mind and as you go through your week ahead, think of the unspoken moments that help drive your instruction and how that impacts both student learning and teacher instruction. Consider how the unintentional becomes the intentional. And how the unspoken moments become the powerful force behind the great things that happen each and every day. Embrace each day.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Be Present.

Often we find ourselves thinking ahead about "what's next" and we lose our focus on the "what's now". Our intentions are good. However, it is our actions that can become overwhelming.

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to colleagues talk about their work with Growth Mindset. What they shared was validating and engaging. Great stuff to say the least. As they were presenting I was able to make connections across the board. We were of the same mold. And having read Carol Dweck's work a while back and having been implementing some of the strategies and supporting my colleagues, I realized the need for me to reflect even more so.

I fully engrossed myself in the moment and I became the student during their lesson. It was now my role to gain knowledge from this unique opportunity and to embrace this time. For much of the conversation I could nod in affirmation that I had been, and was continuing to bring, the concepts of growth mindset to my staff. I even believe and am fully aware of the word (and the meaning) of "yet" and each day find an opportunity to apply that word to my work.

What I also discovered during this time and within this lesson was that I have spent a good bit of time thinking ahead and not always keeping grounded to what is happening currently. Like many of you, it is common. I began to realize that there needs to be two lists during my day. They shared their experience with "To Do" and "To Be". And with that, I was hooked.

By no means has has it been a negative experience that I have been working ahead in my professional goals and ideas in supporting teaching and learning. In fact I am often motivated and excited about coming to work each morning because of those very goals and aspirations. Instead, today was a reminder of the importance of being present in what is already being accomplished and celebrating the now. I engulfed myself in the notion of what needs to be done. That is the "To Do's" we each face. And the compliment to that which is the "To Be". That is where my feet are today.

There is a balance between then and now. We have to be reflective but not stagnant. Teachers are yearning for more yet need to be encouraged to embrace the lessons of the day. We have to look ahead, that is what keeps us the innovative educators that we are. Yet at the same time we have to be mindful of the present. We will always have work to do, but we also have to remember where we are.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Start Somewhere

It doesn't matter how much you want to get somewhere if you never take that first step.

Recently I have been pushed by my colleagues to think about how I lead. And I am the one who encouraged them to share and therefore become a voice in my process of reflection.

Each year I give those that I work with a Staff Satisfaction Survey to gage how their year is going so far. My administrative team (myself and Samantha Althouse), ask about 20-25 questions and even give text space for our entire staff to share their attitudes and feelings about their school experience. We also encourage them share suggestions and solutions for growth. Their voice is essential in this process.

One of the unique pieces about this survey is that it is anonymous. Yep. No names, no content area, nothing other than how many years they have been in the building. Some would never consider doing this. We on the other hand, welcome it. We give the survey twice a year. Once in the late fall/early winter and the other in the spring. Our goal is simple: to become better leaders. The feedback we get is intense, thought-provoking, assuring and at times, painful. We are glad we ask the questions and we are open to the responses.

As you can imagine it is the raw, reflective and powerful feedback that we get that makes it worthwhile. Some responses are right where we thought they would be while others, well, let's just say it gives us plenty to plan for and work on in the days, weeks and months ahead. 

The one thing we do know for sure by going through this process is that we always have an opportunity to grow in what we do. That is something to embrace.

We know the work will not be easy. It will uncomfortable at that.

That is all fine by me, with us. We know as leaders and as teachers we have to start somewhere.

As leaders we cannot grow complacent and comfortable. We as leaders should not take the path of least resistance nor find a path that has the fewest number of obstacles. Those paths are safe. Those paths are easy. That path goes nowhere. If we want to achieve, we have to push the boundaries. We have to be willing to reflect, to learn, to grow.

Our survey guarantees that in order for us to move our organization forward we must embrace "productive discomfort".

Reflect, grow, change, lead, listen, learn and be willing to make tough decisions. We have to start somewhere and that somewhere starts today.