The Lazy Days of Summer…

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Our two youngest monsters…

Today I went on a bike ride with my two youngest monsters (well, they biked and I walked).  As I watched them get ahead of me, I found myself amazed by how much my monsters have grown over the summer.  Our six year old has gone through a growth spurt where his toes finally reach the ground when he is on his “new” bike and our three year old is riding her own bike (with training wheels).

I was saddened a bit that my babies have grown so much and I thought about how much I have enjoyed my time with them this summer.  We have had a wonderful break.  As a family we created a summer bucket list.  We have crossed almost every item off…and we still have time. :)  We didn’t go anywhere spectacular or do anything amazing, but it was a special summer break. These warm, sunny feelings were then replaced with the sad thought that these lazy summer days will soon be over…and back to work I will go.

Now I haven’t really stopped thinking about work over the summer break, I don’t believe any teacher truly does.  While we may not be in the school, in front of students, our brains don’t easily refocus or shift out of school-mode.  But it is easier to find a more healthy balance during the summer months.  School thoughts and ideas can be pushed aside.  We can enjoy our lazy summer days with out recess bells, supervision, thousands of emails to answer or an endless stream of meetings.

As I move into a new school year, one of my goals it to find a healthy work/home balance.  There should be times where we can push our work aside (for a bit) and enjoy our home and family.  To help me find that important balance, I am going to use this post as a reminder to enjoy some lazy days no matter what the season.

Do you struggle to find balance?  Do you have any special ways to re-gain or keep a healthy balance? I would love to hear about them…

For now, I’m off to enjoy the last of the lazy days of summer…

:)S

Why I Lead… #SAVMP

My last school year was a difficult one.  There were many difficult and complex situations with students that left me feeling emotionally drained at the end of each day.  I got to the point where I was asking myself, “Why do I do this?”

Then I happened to come across a tweet…

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That led me to a blog…

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Which had this You Tube video embedded…

After viewing this video, I reflected on “Why I Stay”… which to me also answers the question, “Why I Lead?” posed by our SAVMP

I lead because….

First and foremost for the students.  I love, love, love being with and around children.  Their joy and exuberance are contagious.  On some of my most difficult days I leave my office and head for a classroom.  Any classroom really.  I help the students, visit with students, read to students, even just sit in the back of the classroom and observe the action.  These “visits” bring my perspective back to what I feel is most important.  The students.  These students who walk into our buildings each day.  Some are excited to come each day to learn and engage in the learning process.  Some come because their parents force them too. :) Some students come because it is the only place where they feel safe and cared about.

I lead because…

I feel I can make a positive difference.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to watch my first class of students graduate from high school.  As each of them walked across the stage to receive their diploma, I found myself in a state of awe.  Each one had grown into a beautiful person, individual and unique.  I had played a small part in helping them get across that stage.  Now, as I see them in the community and ask them how they are doing, what they are doing, how their families are I find myself inspired to continue on my path.  I have made a small but significant difference in the lives of students I have taught.  I have come to realize that I may never witness the fruits of my labour because they come further down the road.  But I am confident that I make a difference by doing the little things (like a simple smile, hug or helping hand) to doing the big things (like finding housing for a young family, feeding a family or raising funds for medicine for a student).

I lead because…

I love to collaborate with colleagues and staff.   I believe that all teachers want to improve so they can better reach their students.  I am NOT the keeper of all knowledge, I do NOT have all the answers. But, I believe by working together we can find the best and most practical solution to a problem or question.  I am a supporter, an encourager and a cheerleader! My superintendent has commented about my ability to quietly lead people.  I was not the only one feeling disheartened and disillusioned last year.  I could feel it in the staffroom.  I used the above video for an activity at the beginning of a staff meeting.  After we viewed the video each teacher had time to create their own “poster” about why they stay in education.  We created a bulletin board of our posters above the photocopier.  Teachers found the activity inspiring and up-lifting.  We all knew that when we needed a quick reminder, we could go take a look at the board.

I lead because…

I love to learn.  My parents instilled in me a love of learning from a very young age.  My parents view education as a way to realize your full potential.  As educators, we are in the profession of learning, we must be life-long learners.  I am a huge reader.  I love, love, love to read.  Before beginning my graduate work, I would read professional magazines, publications and books.  I always have a stack of unread books to get to.  By reading, I am able to learn new theories, ways of doing things, best practices, research, the list goes on and on…

I lead because…

Of these four monsters….

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Each of my four children is completely unique.  At times, I wish they were more similar, maybe they wouldn’t fight so much.  But, they are so very, very different.  Our oldest daughter, Naomi is very artistic, creative and thoughtful.  She LOVES animals of any kind.  She is nurturing and kindhearted.  She frequently goes into her own “world” and is easily distracted.  Our oldest son, Reid, is extremely athletic and a quick problem solver.  His mathematical skills  and reasoning shock and astound me daily.  He is also a perfectionist and hates to make mistakes, but he loves to make people laugh.   Our youngest son, Trey, is a hands on learner.  He needs to know how things work and why things were built the way they were.  He is also athletic, what he lacks in talent he makes up in bull-headed determination.  He desperately seeks approval from his older brother.  Our youngest daughter, Alexa, is still quite young but in her we see stubbornness determination, quick wit, and a mischievous edge.  She is quick to pick up new concepts and she loves to “read” stories.

By watching my children grow and learn I have come to believe, we can no longer teach using a “one-size fits all” model.  Our classrooms are much too diverse.  If our goal is for students to learn we need to research best practices and utilize various strategies to meet their individual as well as collective needs.  Our classrooms need to evolve and change so that all children can grow to their full potential.  By becoming an effective leader, I can work towards an education that embraces these ideas.

So back to my initial story of my last school year.  It was a difficult year with many challenges right to the very last day.  But it was also a year full of celebrations, progress and learning.

So, “Why do I do this?”  I do THIS simply because I love it!  I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

:)S

Moving on…

Back in May, I wrote a post about change.  Read it here.

When I wrote that piece I knew I would be facing a change come the end of the school year.  A transfer to a different school in our district.   I felt I was ready for the change.  However, little could of prepared me for the roller-coaster ride of emotions I found myself on for the final two weeks of June.

At times, it seemed as though everything was moving in slow motion.  I could not figure out the new timetable/schedule.  With our school housing a separate Sports Academy program our schedule is complicated.  It took me days longer than it had taken me in the past.  I would sit and stare at it, no answers coming.

Most of the time though, I felt like things were moving at a hyper-speed.  Year end meetings, meetings for students, interviewing new teachers and new students.  There were also final meetings, final staff meeting, final professional development day, final school council meeting, final parent meetings.  During these final meetings I found myself thinking…”This is it, my last meeting at St. Pat’s for …”  However, it still wasn’t real to me.

Then we had our year-end staff social.  I haven’t wrote a lot about the staff at St. Pat’s, but I could write a book.  I have been so fortunate to work with a group of people who care deeply about students, work diligently and with integrity to meet the needs of  students and families.  I have had the pleasure to work with amazing teachers and staff!  At our year-end social, which I thought was just like every other year, our amazing staff presented me with a beautiful gift and kind words.  Staff members had written me beautiful messages which touched my heart, making my transfer seem a little more real…

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Beautiful words by amazing people!

The final week of school was extremely busy.  It is busy every year, and this year would be no different.  I finally figured out the timetable/schedule.  By figuring it out, we were able to complete a number of other jobs.  However, at our school, this last week of school is a time of crisis for a number of our students.  As they look forward to the summer months, they realize the stability of school will not be available to them.  Students begin to feel stress and anxiety.  I met with a few students who were feeling anxious about moving to the High School next year.  While they are excited to be moving on, they are nervous about the unknown.  We work with our school liaison workers to encourage and assure these students.  I found myself feeling true empathy for these students, excited about the change, anxious about the unknown.

On our final school day we begin with a celebration.  We celebrate our accomplishments through the year.  I love this celebration!  Students are recognized for a variety of reasons, too many to list.  We feel there is value in showing students how far they have come during the school year.  So, we take this time to celebration.

The poem...I felt like they were writing about someone else! :)

The poem…I felt like they were writing about someone else! :)

During this celebration I was surprised with an amazing gift!  The students and staff had taken the time to create an acrostic poem for me.  Each class had then taken the time to write a special message to me/about me, and they put them all in a book.  Each student had signed the book.  A student from each class read me the messages, infront of the school.  Students who I had worked with, students who I had helped, students who had taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  What they wrote and said was thoughtful and encouraging.  While they were reading it I was thinking, “I did that?” “They are talking about me?” and “Wow! They have me confused with someone else!” :) If ever I needed affirmation or encouragement, this was it!!!   I know that I will forever treasure this special gift.  

One page of my beautiful book!

One page of my beautiful book!

On this last day of school there were tears, hugs and kind words.  Many parents and families wished me well on my journey & students came by my office for one last hug.  Looking back on that day, the change still didn’t seem real.

In our school district we often have an organizational day after the students are done.  During this day, we sort, organize and clean.  We fill out paperwork and clean, sort and organize for the next school year.  :) At the end of this day, many teachers came by to tell me to have a nice summer and to wish me well at the new school.  When everyone (except for one teacher) was gone, I decided to walk down the hallways of the school.  Hallways that I have walked many, many times in the past five years.  As I walked, I found myself looking in classrooms and smiling a little at all the memories.  And the realization that I was moving on hit me… 

After reflecting for a few days, while I am sad that I am leaving behind a wonderful school, I know I am moving forward with wisdom gained through the experiences I have had over the past five years.  St. Pat’s is an amazing school, full of wonderful people who have taught me each and every day!  I feel so blessed to have had the experience!

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As I was leaving on my last day…with 3 monsters!

:)S

Pizza with the Principal

At the end of the last school year I found myself feeling a bit disheartened, unsure of this career path I had chosen.  I spent the summer reflecting, questioning and generating ideas.  One idea I had was to focus on the positive.  We hold many different types of assemblies and celebrations through the year in effort to recognize the achievements of our students.

What if I asked teachers to nominate students to have  a special lunch with the Principal, me?

Honestly, I went back and forth with this idea.  Should we recognize students for being good students?  Does this send the wrong message to other students?  What is the purpose?  What would the criteria be for the nomination? Has anyone else out there done something similar? Would students even find it exciting?

After some research and much reflection I decided to go ahead and give it a try…  I spoke with my staff about this lunch, their nominations and the criteria I had decided on.  After a tech PD session, I even put it on a Google form and had the teachers submit the student name to me using the form.

The criteria are:

  • Student displays a Christian attitude
  • Student respects self and others
  • Student acts responsibly about their choices and their studies

With the nomination teachers are asked to explain why they chose that student to be nominated.

I spent time creating a formal invitation which looks like this…

pizza invitation

On the inside of the invitation I include why the student was nominated by their teacher.  Students have been very touched by the kind words their teacher’s write about them.

Students are asked to RSVP to the office (most of our students do not even know what this means, so it is a wonderful learning opportunity).

Then I set up the lunch room to look like this…

pizza set up

Students come in and we spend the better part of an hour eating together.  My goal during this time is two-fold.  I speak with each of the students who come to 1. Learn one new thing about that student.  What their interests are outside of school? What is their favorite color? :) and 2. I ask them what they enjoy about our school or if they have a suggestion to make our school a better place.  I LOVE these conversations!  Feedback from our most important stakeholders in an informal way.  While we eat pizza, cupcakes and drink pop, we discuss important subjects close to their hearts and my heart.

After lunch I take time to create a personalized certificate for each student who attends lunch.  I love reflecting on what I learned about each student and including a short anecdote on each certificate.  And, I actually mail these certificates to their home address (it is sure to get home that way) Here is a sample… (The one the children receive is actually in color and on nicer paper…technical issues today!)

pizza certificate

I was sincerely unsure if students would find this meaningful.  The first time I handed out the invitations I was apprehensive and nervous.  I wanted the students to be excited and more importantly, I wanted the students to feel valued.

The purpose for this lunch is to recognize the students’ positive attributes and to thank them for contributing to the positive culture of our school.  

At the beginning of the first lunch, I watched each student enter the lunch room, most with smiles from ear to ear.  I heard “Thank you, Mrs. LaCroix” about 5 times and was hugged about 10 times before lunch even began.  During lunch, I was affirmed when I asked the question, “So, do you think I should hold another lunch like this?” and a grade seven boy (who had eaten 7 slices of pizza) answered, “Yes Mrs. LaCroix, we have a lot of great students here and they deserve to come and have lunch with you too.”  Parents have responded positively as well.  A parent commented about the formality of the invitations and certificates explaining that their child felt truly appreciated and special.

These lunches (2 so far this school year) have been a beacon of light for me.  In our administrative positions it is all too simple to become “bogged down” with the demands, accusations and negativity.  Too often we only are faced with negative experiences.  Pizza with the Principal has been positive for students, but also for me. :)

Here I am with some of my lunch buddies…

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