There are so many things that I love about JW Reason. One of the things I love the most is that we are not afraid of change. We are not afraid to grow and try new things. We are not afraid to push ourselves and each other to be better. We have the power to make the future better than the present.
At our next staff meeting we will evaluate ourselves on our the personal commitment plans we wrote in August. We will also take a look at our progress on the action steps in our Building Commitment Plan. I encourage you to take some time between now and November 30th to reflect on both plans and think about what we can celebrate and also where we need to continue to grow. On our journey to ELITE we can never be satisfied.
We have to stay hungry-we cannot be afraid to say that we’re not there yet and we must be ready to create and execute a plan to make it happen!
Let’s not waste the next few weeks before winter break, let’s use this time to grow and get closer to our goals. Let's commit to creating a future that is better than the present.
On Thursday, Whitney J and I got to spend the day with Tim Kight. We’re supposed to be helping him develop a Lead Now for Educators workbook but really, he’s training us! He’s teaching us to think deeply about what leadership means. His questions cause us to reflect on ourselves as leaders.
As part of our work today, Tim defined the meaning of ELITE.
He said, ELITE is becoming the best version of you.
Just the best version of you!
ELITE is not about being like someone else or comparing yourself to anyone, it’s simply being your best self.
He then clearly defined why it’s important for educators to be on a journey to ELITE. He said, “when your behavior improves, your teaching skills improve.”
As we continue on our journey to ELITE we have to reflect on ourselves. As we reflect on ourselves we must know the answer to these questions:
What do I believe?
How do I have to behave so I can live out my beliefs?
What experience does my behavior create for others?
As we continue on our journey, it’s important to remember that things can get extra stressful this time of year. It’s cold outside, it gets darker earlier, the honeymoon period has ended and it’s easy to BCD. We have to remember that we are still on a journey. We have to remember what we believe and how we need to behave. We must be disciplined to ensure that we don’t let this dreary time of year throw us off path. We must be intention, disciplined and skillful so we can be the best version of ourselves.
I have the pleasure of being the leader in our school. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to be in on all of the behind the scenes action. Yes, I get to watch you teach and participate in professional development with you like data teams and JW Grows. But, what I love more is that I get to part of the things that no one else knows about. Outsiders looking in to a school don’t know about the early mornings, late nights and weekends that you spend taking care of our kids and their families.
Thursday was one of those unplanned late nights when I have the opportunity to see this staff at its best. At the end of the school day we had three stressful situations occur-one required a call to Jeff who quickly came over from Avery; one required a suspension; and one involved a little kindergarten girl not being picked up from school until 5:30. Through all of these “after hours” issues I watched as staff member after staff member rearranged plans and calmly handled situations without worrying about it being nearly 2 hours after the end of the school day. Katie and Beau stayed with our little kindergarten friend until her dad came, Jeff spent time with a student’s grandma to help her take appropriate steps in a serious situation while Regina hung out with the student for 2 hours and talked to her about all kinds of things; Cathy, Lisa, Anita and Karen helped me with my discipline issue and no one complained. That’s what we do behind the scenes.
Thursday was not my favorite day, but as I reflect on the work you all do behind the scenes I remember that there is no place I’d rather be. I could not lead this building without all of you. I could not have handled all three of those issues at the same time by myself. Thank you for all of your work behind the scenes.
On Monday, I got an email from a parent who was apologizing for not being able to attend our Coffee with the Principal. Of course, I thanked her for taking the time let me know and told her that I’d be happy to accommodate her at a different time. She said that she would like for me to call her and that she had something to talk to me about. So, we scheduled a time that worked for both of us and at 1:30 on Thursday, I gave her a call. As I’m sure you can imagine I wasn’t sure what to expect. She had indicated that it was nothing serious, but I was still a little curious.
After she said hello and began to share what she’d wanted to talk to me about, I couldn’t help but be surprised. Here is what she said:
Mrs. Prati, I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how amazing I think JW YOUniversity is! I know that other schools aren’t doing this and I’m sure it takes a lot of time to plan. I’m so impressed with all of the different courses that you offer and that you value giving time in the school day for kids to explore things they might like to do. I was wondering if you have thought about offering a Mindfulness class because I work in a really stressful job and I started to feel like I was not doing my best work. So, at work, I’ve started sharing mindfulness activities with my colleagues. I know that we can’t do our best if our minds aren’t clear and calm.
At this point, I was speechless…that never happens.
She went on to explain all of the things she does with her staff at work. Then she started talking about how she knows that she and her son need to be mindful at home too. Here is what else she said:
My son and I talk a lot about above and below the line behavior, just like you guys talk about at school. It really makes a difference and I just wanted you to know. Thank you Mrs. Prati for being the right principal for this school. And, thank you to your staff. They work so hard and I appreciate them. I know that every time I call your school, I’m going to have a pleasant experience.
After she said all she had wanted to I thanked her and I said, “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that today.” To which she replied, “we need to lift each other up”
Honestly, I think I’m still stunned. And, as I’ve processed our conversation, I truly believe this is a case of you getting what you give. I hope you have all noticed our focus on gratitude this year. I believe that I received this phone call because of our focus on the practice of gratitude. Gratitude is a practice, it’s something we have to work at every day. It was really nice to be on the receiving end of gratitude from this parent. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
If I have to be at work for 12+ hours, there is no place I’d rather be than with all of you. I had the pleasure of being in lots of conferences with many of you. I am beyond amazed at your level of professionalism and your commitment to serving our students and their families.
I almost forgot that we started our Wednesday with a Site Visit in which educators from as far away as Michigan and as close as Upper Arlington came to see the amazing things you do each day. I love Site Visits because they force me to slow down and think about our practice, our purpose and the systems we have in place. After Wednesday’s visit Jim, Lisa, Jeff, Tasha and I were trying to figure out a better way to explain to people how we have arrived at where we are right now. Jim said it best, “it comes down to our culture.”
Everything we achieve has to do the fact the our arrows are aligned, we know our why, we do the work, we don’t complain, we are disciplined and we are a team. Like I said in my post from last week, we root for each other and we support each other. I saw that time and time again on Wednesday. From the Site Visit at 9:15 am to Parent Teacher Conferences that ended at 8:15 pm Jim’s realization was proven over and over again.
So, thank you! Thank you for making a 12+ hour work day so enjoyable!
Coyte Cooper is the author of Make Your Mark. He is one of my favorite authors and an all-around amazing person!
As I reflect on this awesome week, this quote from Coyte kept coming to my mind:
“Most people avoid being uncomfortable at all costs. If you want to be successful, seek out opportunities outside your comfort zone daily and attack them.”
We certainly attacked our opportunities this week. Many of you were observed by your colleagues and almost everyone got to observe a colleague. You opened your classrooms and your minds to others so we could all learn and grow. Whether you were observed or got to observe someone, you had to be vulnerable. You had to pick something that you wanted to learn more about and share it with your colleagues and then you went out and attacked it. The conversations we had during our debriefs were inspiring. You were present in your moment, you were reflective, you asked thought provoking questions, you got feedback on your practice and willingly shared ideas about and asked questions about things you plan to do in your classrooms.
We are better today than yesterday because of the work we did together this week. That’s what the journey to ELITE is about. As usual, I could not be more proud to lead this group of amazing educators!
One of the best parts of my job is getting a chance to be part of every team in this building. Over the past three weeks I’ve been part of data teams at every grade level as well as our EL and Title Data Teams. I love getting to see how you all interact with one another, build on each others strengths and problem solve together.
On Thursday, Alicia and I had the opportunity to share our data team process at the Administrator Meeting at CO. For one of our slides I made a list of the things that make our data teams successful. As I reflected on our process and added to the list, I realized that one thing that makes us ELITE is that WE ROOT FOR EACH OTHER.
I have worked in many different schools and I’ve noticed that often times there is a sense of competition. This underlying tone of “I have to be better than you” is never outwardly stated but can be felt within the culture of the building. The beauty of our school is that we share freely and we want to see each other succeed. We have fully embraced the idea that we rise to the level of those around us. Through our data team conversations over the past few weeks I saw us all rise. We pushed our thinking. We decided to try new things. We are even relying on one another as we plan who we want to observe during JW Grows. This is what it means to root for each other! I am so proud to be part of this team.
“Positive teams don’t just have fun together. They pursue greatness together. They believe the best is yet to come so they give their best to create the best outcome.” –Jon Gordon
This quote sums up our culture! I love this place because even when things are hard and stressful I get to be part of a team that pursues greatness together. This week I started to see and feel the progress that we’ve made so far. I had a minute to breath and celebrate the great things happening around me!
Michael Jenkins said it best on Thursday morning when she said, “I feel like we’re putting the pieces together.”
It’s so true!
We have given our best and while it’s exhausting at times, we continue along this journey to ELITE together because we really do believe that the best is yet to come.
Here is a list of some of the amazing things I’ve noticed our team does on our journey to ELITE:
-Laugh with each other and we don’t take ourselves too seriously
-Learn from each other (Today the K teachers were giving materials and ideas to our 4th grade for some of their low readers!)
-ASK to attend data teams…where else does that happen?
-Cover classes for each other so teachers can attend meetings with parents
-All in during staff meetings and PD---this staff is so on task and engaged during staff meetings and data teams-we make the most of our time together
-Ask for help-this is not a sign of weakness but a sign that we’re not satisfied and want to get better
-Take risks-our staff is willing to try anything-you take feedback and suggestions in coaching and data teams and try anything that you think will help students
-Accept challenges-when we need to problem solve an issue like a late bus, a student who is in the wrong placement, a new team member who needs help, a change in cafeteria or recess routine, etc. we jump in and work together to make plans without complaining!
This is certainly not an exhaustive list but I’m sure you’d agree that this list describes how we operate as a team! What an amazing place.
I’m really stressed. (I think you are too.)
I feel like I’m not doing anything well. (I’ve heard many of you say the same.)
I’m in reaction mode instead of “proaction” mode. (Many of you have expressed that you can’t meet the needs of all of your kids.)
I don’t feel like I’m supporting you all enough. (You don’t feel like you’re doing all you can for kids.)
I know I’m not in classrooms enough. (You are staying here until all hours of the night working.)
So, what should I do? (What should you do?)
I know it’s easy for me to slip into default mode when I’m feeling like this. I get annoyed with phone calls, emails, bus incidents, truancy issues, hunting down school records for new students and other things that “take my time”. I react quickly without thinking and I act like everything is an emergency. However, I’m grateful that I can recognize my “default” actions and prepare some disciplined, intentional actions instead.
Here is a list of the intentional strategies I’m trying to use to reduce my stress and keep my responses to events above the line.
-I do this by intentionally talking in a slow, quiet, deliberate voice. It’s amazing how controlling my rate of speech and voice level helps me to stay calm.
Assume positive intent
-Instead of getting myself all worked up by a complaint or incident I try to think about the positive outcomes that could come from it and I tell myself that the person who needs to talk to me has the best of intentions.
Don’t take things personally
-When I’m stressed, I always read into things way too much. I am intentionally telling
myself that “it’s not about me”.
-I’ve noticed that when I am having really stressful weeks, things that might not usually get me frustrated end up pushing my buttons. I might even make rash decisions and end up complaining or making a fuss about things that aren’t worthy of this reaction. I came up with a strategy to help with this. I have been writing things on post its that I think I want to address and then I wait several days to decide how I really need to handle it or if it needs addressed at all.
Ask for help
-I know I work with so many wonderful people who can help me or give me advice. I am working hard to rely on the people around me!
Let things go
-Not everything warrants my attention. I have to take the time to think carefully about what to give my attention to. I can’t make every issue a crisis that needs immediate attention!
Talk to myself more than I listen to myself
-Self-talk is the best way that I can ensure that I remain intentionally above the line.
If I were to listen to myself I would hear a lot of freaking out, coupled with the sound of Italians talking with their hands! That won’t get me anywhere!
So, by intentionally controlling my self-talk to remind me to quiet my voice, assume positive intent, ask for help and let things go; I am able to get out ahead of my stress.
-One of the best ways to combat my stress this school year is to intentionally practice gratitude. I can’t be stress and grateful at the same time, that’s why you might be hearing more calls for sticker prizes these days! It brings me so much joy to see a huge line of kids in the hallway proudly wearing their VBO stickers! When I see that line it reminds me how grateful I am for all of you.
Have I been great at using these strategies? NO! But, I am committed to continuing to respond to events in the most disciplined way possible. I commit to controlling my self-talk. Coyte Cooper, author of Make Your Mark says it best, “every single thought and minute you spend on negative is a thought and minute that could be spent closing the gap on your highest goal.”
I challenge you to evaluate your stress and the way you default when stressed. I challenge you to pay attention to your self-talk and to begin talking to yourself more than you listen to yourself.
What can you do to intentionally control your emotions and your responses to events during this stressful time?
What will your self-talk sound like?
Can you pinpoint a moment in the past week when you’ve defaulted to a below the line response?
How can you manage your emotions and your response the next time?
And, please hold me accountable for my intentional behavior! I need you to help me keep myself in check!
I’ve spent the last few years learning about taking risks, controlling my mindset, and understanding how to productively use failure. Recently, I’ve been reading about and learning about the lives of successful athletes, actors, business people, politicians, musicians and many others. What I’ve noticed is that many of them speak about fear and what they do in the face of fear.
We are often challenged ourselves to be fearless. But can we ever be completely without fear?
Think about this quote from Tim Ferriss-
“It’s not about being fearless but instead we have to be better at fear analysis.”
FEAR ANALYSIS-Don’t you love this?
Think about it.
When something makes us fearful, it’s okay! In fact, a little fear is a good thing. What makes the difference is how we analyze the fear. When we are really good at “fear analysis” we are able to slow down, think about the reality of a situation and make an informed decision.
Being fearless implies being reckless. Analyzing fear implies not letting fear consume us but using it help us make the best choice.
Check out Tim Ferriss’ interview on Jon Gordon’s Positive U Podcast to learn more about his take on fear!