Tag: Principal

leadershipRecommendations

Remember to Feed Your Soul

      “Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes…”                                                                                                                             Paramahansa Yogananda

FeedYourSoulDoes what you’re doing feed your soul?

Spring brings reflection and opportunities for change, particularly in the field of education. College students wonder about changing majors, changing schools. Teachers and professors wonder if they are in the right place, right grade level, right subject matter, on the right team. Leaders wonder if they are in the right organization, are they leading their teams well, have they empowered others to be their best?

“When do you sleep?” “You look so happy.” “You must love what you do.” “Are you going to quit?” “I feel in limbo.” “Should I really change majors?” “I was told I could make more money…”

There is a dichotomy to these questions and statements every one of which I’ve heard this past week. Each question, each statement allows for the same responses, “What  is it about what you’re doing that feeds your soul?” “What is that you think will feed your soul about the change you are considering?” “What does success look like and feel like to you?” Success is not defined by what others think and feel about your decision. Success is defined by how you feel and think about your decisions when you lay down to fall asleep at night.

Ask yourself, “What my feeds my soul?” 

Do what energizes you. Do what makes you smile. Do that which makes you feel vibrant and causes others to ask and comment, “Do you sleep? You look so happy.”

…and remember

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambitioned inspired, and success achieved.                                                                                                                   Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love Never Stops

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“Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 

As educators of faith, let us remember that, love never stops…

…being patient Help us to remember to be patient with our students who struggle, with colleague’s who we may not see eye to eye with, with parents whose support we don’t feel, and community members that we work in partnership with.

 …believing Help us to remember that every child, every student, can grow and learn. Help us to remember that we do have the patience and the ability to support them. Help us to remember that everyone has the same goal of doing good work for children.

…hoping Help us to have the energy and enthusiasm to always bring our best, to know that we are making a difference in the lives of children and the direction of their futures.

Love never gives up. Help us to remember that through the challenges, You are by our side and the side of every student we serve. Help us to remember that when negativity comes our way, to stay true to the work of helping and teaching children, to supporting and accepting support from our colleagues, parents, and community. Help us to keep an open mind when listening to those who don’t agree. Help us to do work in the interest of all children unconditionally, to forgive, and give the gift of grace to ourselves and to others.

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Leading Courageously

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.21.19 PMACSA’s Superintendent Symposium recently brought together leaders from the forefront of California’s schools. The symposium provided the platform for sharing the vision, learning, and successful practices that are moving the State’s public schools forward. While California’s public schools rank 41st in the nation for per-pupil funding, the State’s superintendents contributed successful practices that are bringing creative and visionary leadership to the challenge of being underresourced. The goal – to provide rigorous academic instruction highlighted by preparing students for rapidly changing workforce skill sets while instilling a strong foundation in local, national, global, and digital citizenship. The methodology – putting structures and systems into place in cultures of support and caring for students and the adults who serve them.

Achieving this goal comes, first and foremost,  with an investment in people. An investment in the professional learning of the people who work with students every day. An investment in the teachers who design lessons. An investment in the support staff who keep things moving behind the scenes. An investment in all those who are supporting the learning and the social/emotional development of the children who attend our schools. Students come to school each day with a variety of needs. Some students show up from strong, supportive homes ready to be challenged. Some students show up for the only two meals of the day they will eat and a safe place to spend their spend time. Others show up needing social/emotional support, extra help to work through the challenges of a disability, or trying to learn English while also keeping up with grade level curriculum. Our schools are filled with caring staffs rising to the challenge of serving every child.

Calfornia’s school superintendents gathered to share successes and strategies on how to lead and support this very important work. These leaders were inspired as they focused on what it takes to prepare today’s student for their future within the structures that are being defined by rapid change and a need for adaptability. Keynotes by  Thomas C. Murray of the Alliance for Excellent Education and Future Ready Schools, as well as Travis Allen of the iSchool Initiative, were energizing. The messages and resources provided forced deep thinking about how we are engaging our students in classrooms right now while simultaneously being tasked to prepare them for the world they will live in as adults.

 I left inspired! 

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.28.53 PMUpon coming home from this week of professional learning, I, like the rest of the attendees, needed to catch up with mail, bills, email, laundry, grocery shopping… One of my first stops, as I embarked on catching up on the home and work fronts, was at Albertson’s. As I shopped for the upcoming week’s groceries, I noticed how engaged a three-year-old was with his grandparents as they too did their grocery shopping. I began gently “stalking” and eavesdropping on them.

I first met them in the meat department, where the full of life and personality three-year-old showed that he has great taste in the type steak he would like to eat – top sirloin. His grandparents were far more partial to the hamburger, but he had outstanding self-advocacy skills and, ultimately, the top sirloin made its way into the grocery cart.

As his grandparents hesitated to buy the steak, he took it upon himself to look around for and connect to other resources to help himself get what he wanted. He received support from unsuspecting customers in the meat department who responded to his requests for assistance. The first customer he reached out to, grabbed a plastic bag for him. He took the package of steak he wanted and the next customer he approached helped him to get the steak in the bag. All this, while his grandmother’s hand rested on his shoulder as she perused the hamburger options with her husband.  I became cognizant that in this brief moment,  the child had shown me that the at the age of three, he is already able to identify his preferences, speak articulately, advocate for himself, and collaborate with those around him to assist with problem-solving. These are expectations that are addressed specifically in the standards and strategies taught in our schools. Yet, there continues to be discussion and pushback in some circles on giving students voice and flexibility in their learning.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 1.39.43 PMThe final stop of the shopping trip was at the Redbox. As I was selecting a movie, this toddler stood at the machine to my left while his grandparents watched him from the check-out line. As his grandmother paid for the groceries, he tapped through the prompts to get to the video game he wanted.

I watched and listened as his grandfather approached and asked him what he was doing. The young boy, confidently responded that he was renting a video game. His grandfather responded that they couldn’t rent the video game. “Why not?” asked our clearly well-developed consumer. Grandad replied, “Because the machine isn’t working.” Without skipping a beat, the gentleman‘s grandson responded, “Yes grandpa, the machine does work. Here, let me teach you how. Can I have your credit card? All you have to do now is swipe your credit card and confirm your email. It will give you the game. The machine is working.”
I thought,”What an incredible spirit of generosity ready to teach, not to mention, great use of the word ‘confirm’.” I saw the beginning understandings of financial literacy. I saw the medium that is most engaging to this young man. I saw that he wanted to share this knowledge and was excited about his ability to do so.  I saw self-advocacy skills.

I also saw that despite being told no twice, his spirit continued to remain positive, his ability to problem solve on his own continued to remain strong, his confidence to speak up continued to remain intact,

I kept this in mind as I thought of the research and data that Tom had presented from the “Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow,” Gallup Student Poll, 2015 during his keynote. It is disheartening to see how students respond by grade level to the prompt of whether they are having fun learning while at school.

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The graph clearly shows the rate at which the level of enthusiasm for learning at school declines.

Travis Allen, college student, and entrepreneur shares a story about the skills he learned through video games that serve as the foundation for his successful business. I appreciated his encouragement that as adults we should sit down and play these games with children so that we can see the skills they are learning from gaming. Games such as SimCity, Diner Dash, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and the Angry Birds series are only a sampling of games that develop skills such as urban planning, creativity in problem-solving, managing a budget, paying attention to details, pulling information and details out of situations.

This wonderful three-year-old boy, grocery shopping at Albertson’s with his grandparents, made sure that the learning and the thinking that happened at ACSA’s Superintendent’s Symposium solidified an understanding of what our call to leadership is. We must support our public schools with adequate resources and the freedom to explore how to engage students. This boy will come to us with some understanding of financial literacy. He will come to us as a child who is curious, creative and a problem solver. He will come to us with strong verbal communication skills, already applying critical thinking to come up with solutions for real world day to day challenges and problems.

It is up to us, as educators, to put structures in place that allow for the freedom and flexibility needed to change a system in which data points demonstrate a decline in student engagement the longer they attend school. It is up to us to continue to engage this little boy with the learning tools he has already started developing during his toddler years. It is up to us to provide him with an education not just from the point of view of adults, but also from the point of view and expectations of him as a learner. It is up to us to capitalize on the skills he is already bringing with him

He will be in one of our classrooms in a year and a half. Will we be ready?

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A Powerful Personal Moment

As I tried to leave work, one thing after another kept coming up that, moment by moment, began putting me behind schedule. I was heading to an ACSA Personnel Academy in the same town that my son attends college. My hope was to grab a quick Starbucks Frappuccino for some caffeine to help me get through what would end up being a 14 hour work day and to be able to stop by to get a quick hug from my son, while also getting to the Academy on time.

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I finally got on the road. One slow vehicle after another kept getting in front of me. Driving along the 101 in California, there were several construction sites and thus rightfully slower zones. These had been planned for in the original departure time goal.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.37.58 AMI pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru to discover the line was longer than expected. Orders were being filled slowly. Another car had pulled in behind me and I couldn’t back up and skip the stop. I started taking deep breaths and texted my son, “I’m running behind schedule. Not sure if I’ll be able to stop by.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.09.23 AMBack on the 101, the two cars ahead of me drove side by side at 55 mph in a 70 mph hour zone. I couldn’t pass either one of them and could feel myself getting frustrated. Yet, all of a sudden a very calm feeling came over me. The words, “I’m protecting you,” came into my mind. The calmness was so sudden and out of the blue. It really caught my attention. I took a deep breath and said a prayer, “God, thank you for slowing me down and protecting me from whatever it is that I may never know. I trust that You are taking care of me.”

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Ten minutes later, I drove past a six-vehicle accident. Several volunteers had already pulled over to assist, but emergency personnel had not yet arrived.Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.02.23 AM

 

Not only did I stop to get and give that hug to my son, but I took some extra time to buy him dinner and tell him the story. I ended up getting 5 incredible hugs during those twenty minutes, was able to hear some wonderful stories from him, and am now looking forward to a bonus Monday night dinner date with him.

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Yes, I arrived late to the Academy. When I got there though, I found the session was just getting started.

I thank God for the gift of faith He has given me, for protecting me, and for helping me keep what is really important in perspective.

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Shifting the 21st Century Conversation

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.47.48 PMIt’s 2018 and we’re still having conversations about what it means to be a 21st Century Leader and Learner in education. We are still having conversations about what a 21st Century education should like. Nearly one-fifth of the way into the 21st Century, it’s time to shift these conversations and focus on the actions needed to ensure that we are providing a relevant education to today’s student that will prepare them for their tomorrow.

What exactly does this look like:

  1. Design learning experiences and spaces that will allow students to develop the skills they will need to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century: Adaptability, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Relationship Building.

     2. Understand that National, Global, and Digital Citizenship can all be rolled into one.             Citizenship. Being a person of good character stands the test of time.

     3. Engage each generation’s student in learning with the tools that are being used by             their generation.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.50.49 PMMaking the commitment to being an educator is making a commitment to the future. It is making a commitment to empowering each generation with knowledge and skills.  The responsibility for educating children and students of all ages has always been an important one. Yet, our generation has been given the gift of living in a time marked by rapid shifts technological growth and in how the world does business.

The education system is still in its infancy in responding to the needs of the globally connected, digitally literate student. Courage is needed by educators, parents, community members, legislators, and students to move from accepting the transferring of past practice to digital formats towards practices that enhance and accelerate learning that is engaging and relevant.

We must bring an open mindset to our roles. We must embrace innovation and lead by investing in people. Teacher leaders invest in your administrators. Site and district office leaders invest in your support staff, classified staff, and classroom teachers. Educate parents, community members, school boards and legislators to bring an understanding of what it looks like to prepare students for their tomorrow. Share resources and professional learning that support the growth and adaptability of the education profession and the system that supports it.

Preparing students for their future is a call to action. Whether in a small school district or a large one, whether in a small school or a large school, whether in a small community or a large community, invest in, learn with, and educate. Shift the conversation. Embrace what is possible and make it happen.

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Building Trust – The First Step

ImageI recently had an experience in which my trust relationship with an employee was broken. The experience has been cause for a significant amount of reflection in which I’ve been asking myself what was missing in the foundation of the expectations. How could I have responded differently to the situation? The trust wasn’t just broken from my perspective. I feel comfortable that the employee feels the same way. Knowing this has led me to ask several reflective questions: How do I lead in repairing the relationship? Why is it important to repair the relationship? What was missing to start with that allowed the event to occur? The more thought I give the situation, the more I see that there is a crack in the foundation.

The Crack in the Foundation

ImageAs a principal and instructional leader, there is an inherent responsibility to provide staff with a clear understanding of the organization’s foundational values and vision. The larger vision on which our education system is built is to teach students to become independent citizens. In this case the instructional goal that supports that vision was to have students with severe handicaps participate in a general education lunch while developing skills to be able to transition to participating in this activity independently. Yet, as I reflect on the practice that was occurring, it strikes me that the goal wasn’t clearly communicated, the steps provided in the training weren’t being implemented and the materials to support the training weren’t available. There is a huge crack in this foundation.

The “glitch” in the goal was the difference in understanding that the expectation for achieving independence is expected in all activities on campus, not just the classroom. Directions have been given over a series of years that support a generalized concept of taking students to lunch which is very different from, “Use the prompting model and visual supports (training and materials provided to meet expectations) to support students in walking to the cafeteria, getting their lunch, sitting at the assigned table and taking in their meal with 100% independence by the beginning of February.” This goal than needed to be broken into clearly defined objectives to provide staff with an understanding of the process that it will take to get there. For example, an objective such as, “Support students in getting their food by using visual and gestural prompts after oral directions have been given. Provide 5 seconds of wait time in between prompts.” In clearly defining the goal and the objectives, staff would have had more knowledge on how to apply the training they have received in this specific situation. Clear expectations go a long way toward building trust.

In this particular situation, I noticed that staff didn’t have the visual prompts that have been created to support the prompting model built into the training they have received on how to support students with both receptive and expressive communication. It struck me that staff may not be clear that these materials are to be used at all times and not just during specific curricular activities. Again, clear expectations go a long way toward building trust. Staff need to understand what is expected of them at all times in order to be successful.

The situation has turned out to be blessing in disguise. We continuously look at how to improve programs and while the situation was incredibly uncomfortable, it has allowed for the realization that there are cracks in the foundation. The expectations were not as clear to staff as management thought they were. We’ll side step for a moment, fix the crack in the foundation, continue to build trust and grow strong programs for students.