We work hard. We are laser focused all day long at our school. It is easy to be so zoomed in that we forget about the amazing work we do! On Thursday, we had a visit from Teresa Scholl and some 5th grade teachers from Pleasant Local Schools. This visit gave me the opportunity to slow down and zoom out for a little bit.
Scott, Tasha and Whitney talked to the teachers about the reading and writing workshop and the why behind what we do. I got to be part of these conversations which reminded me that we are truly living our ONE WORD---PURPOSE. Scott and Whitney eloquently shared their purpose. They were asked questions about what standard they were teaching and what our test scores were. And, their answers made me so proud. They shared that at our school we care about kids and building readers and writers. They shared that the know their standards and certainly allow standards to be a guide but our main goal is to create independent readers, writers, thinkers and problem solvers. The funny thing is that earlier that morning I had told these teachers the same thing. Scott and Whitney had no idea about this conversation but when asked the same question, gave the same answer! Our arrows are so aligned. We are so lucky to have to be part of the amazing things happening at JW Reason.
When you’re in it every day, it’s easy to lose sight of the amazing things YOU do. So, give yourself a few minutes to zoom out, reflect on the work you do and your PURPOSE for doing it. I think you’ll be happy with what your hard work has helped you accomplish.
We are an amazing team. I have been gone for 3 ½ days and you guys have not missed a beat!
What an amazing place.
On Wednesday, I found this quote and I feel like is sums up our “circle” perfectly.
Your dedication to kids shines through in all you do. Thank you for hitting the ground running on this first week back from winter break!
I love this staff so much. You truly are family to me. This week we are saying goodbye to two of our family members. Ann Lo, our super sweet, kind and humble Occupational Therapist began her retirement. Ann is one of those quiet souls who sees the good in everyone. I learned so much from my years working with Ann and will miss her dearly.
On Friday, we are saying goodbye to Ken Lissey who will also be heading out to retirement at the end of December. It’s hard to find someone who works harder than Ken. I don’t think many of you know that for years, Ken has come to work on the weekends to clean out the vents in classrooms. He takes the utmost pride in his work and is a true professional.
When things come to an end, it’s hard to readjust to a new normal and of course saying goodbye is hard. But, I am so happy and excited for Ann and Ken. After years of dedication they have earned the chance to enjoy their retirement. While Ann and Ken’s journey at J.W. comes to an end, I know that I am better in my own journey because of them.
Congratulations Ann and Ken! You will forever be part of our family.
It can be hard to focus this time of year! The anticipation of an upcoming break can distract us from doing the work. What I love about this staff is that no matter what time of year it is or what time of day it is we continue to get stuff done. I can walk around this building at 3:00 on a Friday and observe the same level of quality instruction as I do on a Monday at 9:30am. You all work so hard and you make me better every day. Today I saw this tweet from Tim Kight and I was reminded that we are so lucky to work with a group of people who make the choice to be better each day.
I want to be better because of all of you! Your choices raise my average! Thank you for the work you do each day. Let’s enjoy this last week as we continue to DO THE WORK!
This year we have the pleasure of having six first year teachers in our building. As I’ve watched them grow over the first few months of the school year I can’t help but be reminded of my first year. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had no idea what I was doing. Teaching felt like “work” and by “work” I don’t mean fun, enjoyable work; I mean miserable, torturous work. Now, 18 years later, I am grateful for the 180 days of struggle that I endured during my first year of teaching but there is not an amount of money in the world that could persuade me to redo that first year, even now.
Over the course of my next few years of teaching, I was able to settle into a grade level that I loved and find a support system to help me grow into the teacher I wanted to be. I am glad I didn’t give up during that initial year.
This week I completed OTES on our new teachers. They all worked hard to do their very best for their evaluations but what I love the most is that they chose to have me observe something that they wanted feedback on! Their growth mindset and willingness to be vulnerable and takes a risk made me so proud. Their decision to look at OTES as a growth opportunity says so much about them as professionals and it speaks to the culture of our building. Growing is what we do, we take every opportunity to learn from our experiences so we can get better. That’s exactly what our new teachers did this week. In a building where we strive to be ELITE our new teachers taught me a great lesson this week:
Take a risk. You might mess up, but you’ll definitely learn.
Take a few minutes to think about your first year of teaching. How have you changed as an educator? Who helped you along the way so you could become the teacher you are today?
Now, I challenge all of you to share some words of wisdom and encouragement with our new teachers! Make sure they know that it gets better and that they’re doing an amazing job!
I was not the principal I wanted to be this week. I set out this week to be in classrooms, write notes of thanks and gratitude to you and just be of service. Then, life happened. Bella ended up coming home sick from school on Monday and stayed home on Tuesday and Wednesday. I ended up getting to school late most days this week. I was distracted and just not my best self. But, when I was driving to school this morning I decided to give myself some grace. As soon as I let myself be okay with being disappointed in my week, I felt so much better.
Later, I looked up the definition of the word grace. Merriam Webster defines grace as “a temporary exemption”. Exactly what I needed! A temporary exemption from being ELITE. I was not ELITE this week. I was not "better today that yesterday" this week. But, that’s okay.
So, I challenge you to give yourself some grace when you need it. Have you noticed that we freely and easily give grace to others. We often are encouraging others to take care of themselves, take a sick day or leave school before it’s dark outside, but do we take our own advice?
Grace is the answer because our exemption is temporary! We’re not saying we surrender, we’re just temporarily hanging out of the mountain of average so when we get our life back in order we can go back to being our ELITE selves!
My hope for all of us is that we all have more ELITE days than not and that we give ourselves grace on those off days.
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.