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

Building relationships…

“Before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you.”

The importance of building relationships allows you to get to know the students, parents and staff you are working with, but it also allows them to get to know you.  The above quote speaks to me about the importance of building relationships.  I believe that building positive relationships is critical to being an effective administrator.

The more I read on twitter and the more  course work that I do, I am affirmed in my belief about the power of building relationships.  I have spent time thinking about and reflecting on the importance of building positive relationships with students, colleagues and families of our schools.

This summer I have been thinking about the best ways to do this as I will be moving to a new school (have I mentioned that?:)) These are some of my ideas, from the past and from the present…

Students

Being present:   In my experience, the best way to build relationships with students is to be present.  Be present in the hallways, in the classrooms, on the playground, during sport events and extra-curricular activities. Be present before, during and after school.  Be present during recess breaks and lunch time.

Learn their names: At my current/former school I was so proud to say that I knew each student by name.  Students and parents would often ask me, “How do you remember all of our names?”  This was one thing that students wrote about in my beautiful year end keepsake.

Ask questions: During classroom visits, I always ask students to , “Tell me what you are learning about today” and “Can I help you in anyway?”  Quite often, this is the best part of my day. During recess breaks and lunch break I often ask students, “What do you love to do outside of school?” or “What do you enjoy doing with your family?”  Through these informal conversations I learn a lot about a student.

Share stories: Students also like to hear what I do outside of school.  The smaller the student, the more surprised they are that I don’t actually live at the school. :)  They like to know about my kids, my family and what I like to do besides work.

Families

Be present: Be present and available during Meet the Staff evenings, Open House, Family Fun Nights, Parent Teacher Interviews, sporting events…

Share a positive story:  All too often when I have to phone a parent it is usually for discipline of their child.  As often as I can, I like to share positive stories as well.  Taking the time to share the good as well as the bad, lets parents know that you care about their child.

Listen: When parents/families contact me, they have something important to say.  I need to take the time to listen.  Sometimes it takes awhile to truly hear what they are trying to tell me, other times, it’s just a quick chat.

Return phone calls: I understand the busy-ness of everyday, however, if a parent or family member has called, I do my very best to return that phone call in a timely manner.  Parents appreciate the time it takes to return the phone call and they feel valued and respected by this simple courtesy.

Colleagues

Be present: Be present and available through out the school day, during instructional time, during recess and lunch breaks, before and after school, during Parent Teacher Interviews and Professional Development days.

Listen: Similar to parents, I try to ensure that I listen to staff.  They are in the “trenches” and know their students so well.  When they come to me to share a story, celebrate a success, vent, cry or laugh I need to take the time to truly listen.

Offer Support: When and if I can, I offer support.  I often say, “What can I do to help?”

Share stories: I am a pretty open book with colleagues.  I share stories about my family, my life experiences and my teaching experiences.  Over the past 16 years, I have learned a lot and I have stories to share.  Sometimes I have an idea or suggestion to share.  Other times, I share a failure and what I learned from that experience.

Taking time to build relationships demonstrates my dedication to each individual that I encounter.  When relationships are built, people have a better idea of what I am about and they are more willing to listen to my message.

I know there are many more ideas to build relationships and I would love to hear from you…what did I miss???

:)S

Something to Say…

talking

Before March of this year, I had never even thought of blogging about my professional experiences or opinions. I had briefly considered blogging about my parenting experiences. As a mother of four, there are some things I feel I could say, funny stories, silliness and some serious topics. But I had never ventured past the initial thought process.

Then at our teachers convention in March a session titled, “The Networked Leader” caught my attention. I had heard about twitter, but didn’t feel that following celebrities would impact my teaching. :) Blogging was in the session description as well. So, I went…

In the end, I dove into the world of twitter and blogging. And I love it (mostly).

I find myself struggling to write meaningful posts. It is easy to write reflective pieces about my experiences, but the posts with opinion and fact are more difficult. And I am haunted by a statement the presenter of the session (the infamous George Couros @gcouros) made. He said, as admin if you have nothing to say, get out of admin. Now, he went on to qualify that statement and it totally made sense to me.  He also wrote about it in his post, “The Prophets in Your Land”

However, I continued to struggle to find “something to say.”

This process has forced me to reflect on my leadership style. How can I make a meaningful difference at a school if I have nothing to say? How can I effectively run a school if I have nothing to say? So I forced myself to consciously notice when I “say something.”  Through this process, I discovered that I do “say” a lot and have a lot to offer to students and teachers.  Also, moving from my school, my students and staff provided many examples of ways that I “say” things and meaningful examples of what I said.

I attempt to take a gentle and coach-like approach.  I take the time to think about the best approach of  how I can best support and encourage , rather than tell students and staff “the right way” to do things. I provide suggestions, articles, research, and support.  I have never said, I have all the right answers, but I will assist in finding the answers.  I enjoy this part of my job.  I feel that anyway I can help make the job of a teacher easier or more efficient, it is worth my time.

So, I guess I do have something to say.  Maybe my struggle was more with how to put it out there.   I value and respect my colleagues, within my district, city, province and now PLN.  My hope is that they find value in what I have to “say.”

:)S

Reflecting, Learning, Growing

My journey into the world of twitter has been a bit of a whirlwind. My professional learning has been immediate, relevant and meaningful.  Videos on my twitter feed and embedded in blogs are directly linked to instructional practice, assessment strategies, classroom management, professional learning, inspiration…the list goes on and on…

Here are three videos that have caused me to reflect on my practice, grow in my role and affirm my beliefs about education.  I find myself pulled back to these three videos, for different reasons, but I go back again and again and again…

1.  How to Escape Education’s Death Valley – Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson…a master educator…his words cause me to question current practices, reflect on my beliefs and grow as an educator.

Each time I view this video, I come away with a new learning or a different way to look at things…

Some of the points that I am currently pondering:

  • If you have more than 2 children, you know how different they are…why do we insist on teaching to the middle?
  • Education is about creativity…how do we encourage creativity in our school or our students?
  • We may be engaged in teaching, but we may not be actually achieving learning.
  • Alternative education options should become the norm
  • Even in “Death Valley” there is life.  The example he shared of the rainstorm in Death Valley and the following spring was an incredibly powerful image.    Our students are the “seeds of possibility.”
  • The role of leadership is NOT command and control, the real role leadership is creating a climate of possibility

2. Every Kid Needs a Champion – Rita Pierson

The second video has also been through the twitter world.  Rita Pierson speaks passionately about education and her presentation spoke directly to my heart ♥.  I remember being told early in my admin career, “You know Shelley, it’s not all about the kids.”  I remember feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me…I believe education is all about the kids!  Without the kids, what do we have?  Why are we doing what we are doing?

Some ideas that I want to remember, reflect on and shout in the staffroom!

  • Education is about relationships
  • Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like!
  • A simple apology from a teacher is a powerful way to build a relationship
  • It’s ok to feed kids, buy lice shampoo, teach students how to wash their hair and brush their teeth
  • We may not like each and every kid, but they had better never know that
  • I want to leave a legacy of relationships!
  • Every child deserves a champion

3.  10 Expectations

And finally, a video shared by George Couros in his recent blog.  (On a side note, I blame George for my journey into twitter and blogging.  Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad…:))

Anyways… this video shares 10 fair expectations students have regarding their education.

This video had me questioning:

  • How often do we ask our students what they “expect?”
  • What might we learn if we asked that question?
  • How often do I fail at meeting a student’s expectations of me?
  • How can I ensure that I meet their expectations?
  • How would I do on an assessment based on meeting these 10 expectations?

Each video is very different, but each causes a similar response in me.  To continue in my profession I must continue to reflect, learn and grow.

:)S

Change

cc licensed flickr photo shared by marsmet546

cc licensed flickr photo shared by marsmet546

“Change is inevitable; growth is optional.” John C Maxwell

Change seems to be the topic of many blog posts I have read this week.

Complicated concept, complex emotion.

When I wrote my post about April struggles… I was unaware that I would be facing an admin transfer to another school in our district.  I have been at “my” school for five years now.  Five years of building relationships, collaborating, creating, learning, growing.  Five years at the school that I attended as a child.

Now I am facing change…

Most who know me, know that I am not afraid of change.  I consistently seek new ideas, new resources, or new ways of doing things.  (Hence my coursework and my journey into the world of twitter and blogging).  I enjoy the learning and growing that naturally come with change.

But, to be completely honest, with any change I also feel anxiety and fear.  Anxiety of the unknown.  Moving to a new school.  New families, new students, new staff, new culture, new building.  Fear of making a mistake (this is something I feel even when not facing change :)).  However, making a mistake before building relationships or trust scares me a little.

Excitement…

I can’t help but be a little excited as well.  I am more confident in my knowledge and skills as an administrator.   Part of my job that I enjoy the most and that I feel I do quite well is, establishing relationships.  I get to “start over” with new students, families and staff.  Getting to know students, their strengths, their learning styles and their interests.  I have the opportunity to collaborate with a new staff.  Each new teacher I meet and learn from, makes me a better administrator.  I view this change as a chance to build on what I know and to improve!

So, while I am saddened to leave “my” school, I am beginning to admit that I am also looking forward to the change.

“Change in all things is sweet” – Aristotle

:)S