Have you ever had one of those days? You know, when absolutely nothing seems to go your way? When it's as if the entire universe is working against you? Well, I had one of those days today.
It started with an angry parent and continued when I got home and thought my son's football practice was cancelled only to discover as I was on my way to a spirit night for my school that it wasn't! So, I turned around in rush hour traffic and attempted to get him back home to get his gear. As luck would have it I hit every red light for about 18 miles. I finally dropped him off at the field at 5:53 thinking I was 23 minutes late for his 5:30 practice. I then took my other 3 hungry...actually "hangry", kids to Chipotle. We were just about to sit down when I dropped my chicken fajita burrito with guacamole on the floor. This was one of the few times that I actually sprung for the expensive Chipotle guacamole. I felt like I deserved it after my crazy day. As I gazed at it splattered on the floor, I thought, you've got to be kidding me. As I contemplated buying another burrito I noticed that the chipotle line was out the door so I sat and watched my kids eat while I reflected on my horrible luck.
Then we rushed home so I could give my 5 year olds a bath before heading to pick up my son from practice which ended at 7:00. Surprisingly, we accomplished baths and I was out the door at 6:55pm for the 7:00 pick up! I felt like I was back on track! As I left my oldest home with my 5 year old twins, I said I'd be right back and that it would only take me about 10 minutes to pick up Gino. As I arrived at the field I noticed that practice didn't seem to be even close to over. I checked the calendar and realized the practice really hadn't started until 6:00 and wasn't over until 7:30. Sigh...
So, I sat in my car and wrote this blog post.
I'm chalking this day up as a loss. We all have to do that sometimes. Tomorrow is a new day. I've learned many lessons today:
Double check your schedule.
Don't carry two trays full of burritos at Chipotle.
And, most importantly-give yourself permission to have a bad day every once in a while.
Here's to a brighter tomorrow!
“If you face something and find that you struggle, that does not mean that you can’t do it. Instead, it means that you are perfectly positioned for powerful learning.” From, The Writing On The Classroom Walls by Steve Wyborney.
“Perfectly positioned for powerful learning!” I love this quote. On Thursday we had our first half-day data team meeting of the school year. Kindergarten teachers met with the literacy coach and I to analyze data and select kindergarten students who will need intervention. Out of our 100 kindergarten students we identified 50…yes, 50…who qualified for intervention. Now, this realization may cause some to panic, but not us. At J.W. Reason we look at our data, determine the most important teaching points that will move the children forward and we just do it. We see children as being “perfectly positioned for powerful learning.” We don’t dwell on the struggle. Instead, we create a learning environment in which children can grow.
As educators we don’t have time to make excuses or say that we can’t do it. We must remember that “this is not a drill”. We get one chance to make each school day as impactful as possible. We have one chance to notice when children are “perfectly positioned for powerful learning”. It is up to us send the message to students that “what may seem impossible now, may soon be possible”.
For more inspirational messages that will empower students, check out The Writing On The Classroom Walls by Steve Wyborney. And, join Steve and I on September 28th at 9PM EST as we co-moderate #ohedchat.
“The Edge-Where The Average STOP and ELITE The START” -Tim Kight
Yesterday, I was given a poster with the above quote on it and I just can’t stop thinking about it. As I’ve played the quote over and over in my head during the past 24 hours I can’t help but think of a huge list of examples of times when the amazing teachers I work with have pushed themselves to the EDGE.
At my school we have been challenging ourselves to make the choice to be ELITE. And, it’s hard. As we get all wrapped up in the demands of the school year, it’s easy to switch to auto pilot; resort to blaming, complaining and defending; and do anything we can to make a problem become “not our problem”. But, time and time again I see my staff choosing just the opposite. They are choosing to be ELITE and it comes through each and every day.
Here are three of the important choices that separate the average from the ELITE:
1. Ask the right questions, even when they make you feel uncomfortable-On Tuesday a few teachers stopped in my office to share some data with me. They noticed that their students dropped several reading levels from the end of last year to this year. What was awesome about the conversation was that there was no blaming, instead they asked questions:
We think we should talk to the team of teachers who had these kids last year and find out what the biggest struggles were for the students.
We also want to know what strategies worked for them.
We want to compare their work from last year to a work sample from this year to see where the gaps are.
See! NO COMPLAINING just a group of teachers asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS!
2. Have tough conversations even when you don’t want to.-On Wednesday one of my kindergarten teachers, my speech therapist and I met with a parent. The parent’s little boy was struggling in kindergarten and we had to let her know that very little academics were occurring for her child. We were still working on having him keep his hands to himself, walking in the line and following one step directions. Throughout the meeting the teacher shared multiple interventions that we would be using to help her son. Near the end of the meeting the parent began to cry and what my teacher said to her put everything in to perspective. She said, “I would rather have a child with a good heart than one who knows all of his letters on the first day of school. You’re doing a great job.” She continued by saying, “the academics will come, we are going to meet him where he is.”
3. Choose to tell yourself the positive story-You’ve heard the saying “perception is reality”. When we choose to be ELITE we make the decision to tell ourselves the positive story. It doesn’t mean that we look at the world through rose-colored glasses but it does mean that we take a step back when we’re presented with situations and remember that we’re here to do what’s best for kids. We remember that it’s not always about us. I see teachers at my school telling the positive story every day as they jump in and cover duties for each other, help one another with behavior plans and stay after school late into the evenings to meet with parents after they finish work.
Each day my teachers help me as I continue to push myself to start at the EDGE. I am not going to settle for average and neither are they. Our students deserve more.
Do you stop or start at the EDGE?
Early in my teaching career I was overwhelmed all the time. I was overwhelmed because I didn’t know if my teaching was effective and I didn’t know what to expect from my students or from myself. I wanted to do a good job and I just didn’t know how.
Later in my career, after much professional development I became extremely comfortable in the classroom. Teaching was easy and I was able to help new, overwhelmed teachers navigate through their first few years. But, just as I became really comfortable I was given the opportunity to serve as my school’s literacy coach. And, just like that, I was overwhelmed again. I didn’t know how to teach adults and it was uncomfortable going into classrooms and providing feedback to teachers about their lessons. But, then a few years into my coaching career, I was comfortable and confident in my abilities. I could see that my coaching was making a difference in the lives of teachers and students. Then, just as I became really comfortable (are you seeing a pattern here) I was given the opportunity to be an elementary school principal. That’s right, I didn’t seek out this opportunity. I was approached by my superintendent and encouraged (gently nudged) to accept the position as the principal at J.W. Reason Elementary. I agreed and for the first two years, I was overwhelmed. I mean really, really overwhelmed. There were so many new things thrown at me that often times I didn’t know which end was up. Then things started to become easier, almost predictable and being a principal began to feel comfortable. But, now, I was wiser. I knew that each time that I began to feel comfortable in my career the universe presented me with a new uncomfortable situation. So, this time, I decided that two could play at this game. I didn’t wait for the universe to present me with a new overwhelming opportunity; instead, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone before someone else could do it for me. In doing so I brought my staff along with me. And now, I’m overwhelmed and I’m so happy about it.
We have a lot of initiatives that we’re juggling this year. We’re in the midst of an elementary redesign project; writing and implementing weekly culture lessons for our entire school; preparing to be a preconference site for the upcoming TESOL conference; moving into year two of our ELL co-teaching action research project; beginning year two of our full day kindergarten pilot program and I’m sure there’s something I’m leaving out! But now, I’m thrilled to be overwhelmed because what I know is that through these experiences I’m learning. And, I know that sometime soon I’ll learn so much through these experiences that I’ll have to find new things to overwhelm me because when I’m not overwhelmed I’m unsatisfied and when I’m unsatisfied I move on to new experiences. I’m not ready to leave my role as an elementary principal. There is too much that I still need to learn. So, if I have to choose between comfortable or overwhelmed, I'll choose overwhelmed!
I’ve said it over and over again in my career as a teacher, instructional coach and now as an administrator; relationships are everything and culture is what drives an organization forward. This week, I lived them and what resulted was quite powerful.
It all started last Thursday when I received an email from a teacher telling me that one of our students punched someone on the school bus. The force of the punch had knocked out the child’s tooth. I was instantly frustrated and angry that I hadn’t found out about this from the bus driver, but instead from what a student reported to the teacher. I was quick to be annoyed with the bus driver as I was now in the midst of having to investigate the situation, call parents and give consequences. In my frustration I called our assistant transportation coordinator and let my Italian temper get the best of me-I had to put the phone on speaker because my hands were flying all over the place (I learned the art of “Italian hand talking” from my grandfather). I was determined to let the transportation department know how annoyed I was. But in the middle of the conversation, just like flipping a switch, I was hit with the realization that my bus drivers and I didn’t feel like we were on the same team. In that moment I calmed down, adjusted my tone, took a deep breath and said, “Can I have the drivers come to school for a meeting next week? I’ll buy them breakfast and take some time to talk to them.”
The following Tuesday every single one of my bus drivers arrived at my school for the 9:30 meeting. They came voluntarily on their own time. I showed them the way to the library, offered them donuts, muffins, coffee and juice and sat with them at the table that I had decorated with a blue tablecloth. They seemed uneasy at first, wondering what they’d done to be called to such a meeting. I reassured them that I just wanted to thank them for all the hard work they do for our kids and families each and every day. I explained that they have one of the hardest jobs in the school district because they are charged with transporting our students to and from school safely and they have their backs to the kids the whole time! This is no small feat.
The meeting continued for about 45 minutes. I let them share their thoughts and concerns about the students’ bus behavior. We even came up with a system to reward students for appropriate behavior. And then, just before I was about to end the meeting, I remembered that I had to show each one of them how to get to the library when they had came in earlier. So, I asked this question:
“Have you ever been inside our school before?”
Every single one of them gave the same answer… “We’ve only been in the office and the lounge.”
This answer made everything seem so clear. How dare I expect our bus drivers to feel like part of the team when they’ve never been inside the school? How dare I expect them to trust me and my teachers when we only see them for 5 minutes at arrival and dismissal?
So, I invited them to come on a tour with me. I took them to EVERY CLASSROOM in the school. I walked in and said, “I have big news! Your bus drivers came to see you at school and find out what you’re learning!”
The following pictures tell the rest of the story.
Our students love their bus drivers and our bus drivers love their students.
No matter your title: secretary, teacher, bus driver, custodian, administrator, instructional aide; you play an immensely important role in the lives of children. No matter what, you think of the kids as YOUR kids, and they are! We are all on the same team. We are all educators! At any given time any one of us could be the person who makes an impact that will change a child’s life. In order to be at our best for kids, we must all respect the role that we play in their lives, we are better together.
Remember the power of the team.
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.