Did you know that in every organization people can be classified as runners, joggers or walkers?
When runners see a problem they immediately take action to solve it. That’s what we do! The joggers let the runners take off and as they watch. Then those joggers get moving too but just at a slower pace. And, then there are the walkers. They take a little bit longer to get moving by eventually come along.
We are a building full of mostly runners. We try new things, we aren’t afraid to fail, and we are willing to take risks. Do we always choose the correct path? No! But, that does not deter us.
On Thursday our K team met with Jackie, Amanda and me to learn about a way to implement phonics instruction in their classrooms. There was no push back, there was no one saying “I’m not doing that”. Why wasn’t there anyone digging in their heels? The answer is that because at JW we look at our data, we have honest conversations about it and then we take action! Our K team saw a gap, asked questions and said let’s do something about it. Over the next few weeks and months, they are going to get messy (as if K isn’t already messy enough)! They are going to try, reflect, fail at some things, succeed at lots of things and continue to refine their work. That’s what runners do.
This is just one example of the runners in our building!
Here are some others:
1-our EL team started co-teaching years ago
2-our Title teachers are using iSpire and questioning their teaching practices as they use LLI.
3-our 1st grade team is looking at new data as we progress monitor kids with DIBELS and look at our Heggerty assessments
4-2nd grade is implementing Heggerty and looking at writing differently
5-3rd-5th are all questioning the rigor of the work their kids do in writing and reading. They have changed the way guided reading looks in their classrooms and the way their kids are writing about reading.
6-Our spec ed team is working in data teams to improve their communication with classroom teachers
7-Our related arts team added safe spots to their classrooms and are participating in mental health and wellness data teams.
I love this place! I love trying new things together and being runners! Thank you for trusting each other enough to take risks together!
For the past 19 years, I have been learning how to be a reading teacher. About 4 years into my career, I was trained to be a Literacy Collaborative coach. I’ve written about this training before and how it changed the course of my career and made teaching so much fun. After my training, I felt like I truly understood how to teach reading and I had a deep understanding of the reading and writing process. I was so happy to get to help other teachers learn the things that I had learned in my training. I really wanted teaching to be as enjoyable for others as it was for me.
In January of last year we started looking more closely at certain data that we honestly had discounted before. We dove into the phonemic awareness and phonics standards, we looked at DIBELS data and we started asking some different questions. From these conversations we began implementing a new phonemic awareness curriculum in K, 1 and 2. And, just like any good data collection, what we learned started to make us ask even more questions.
Now we continuing to ask more questions about the way we teach reading and I AM UNCOMFORTABLE! I mean I am REALLY, REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE but I love it!
When I was presented with differing ideas about how to teach reading I knew that I had two choices.
Choice one was to BCD and stay in my comfort zone.
Choice two was to jump in feet first and swim around in the unknown.
If you haven't noticed, I chose choice two and I thank you all for coming along on this journey with me. My job right now is to question our practices, collect data and help all of us draw conclusions about how we can be better. One of the things that helped me realize that I need to rethink my philosophy on teaching reading is this podcast called at a Loss for Words.
Here is my advice-before you listen, grab a notebook, a pencil (and maybe a barf bag). Do not come to any conclusions until you’ve listened to the whole thing…maybe twice. Then, come talk to me about it.
Happy listening and get ready to be UNCOMFORTABLE just like me.
A few weeks ago I was greeted by a hoard of excited 5th graders! They were all talking to me at once and I was sure that some terrible gaga or football incident had occurred.
However, I was very, very wrong. One of them began waving an index card in my face. I took it and read the words that were written on it. On the card the boys had written to me to ask if they could start a FULL HOUSE FAN CLUB. Yes, you are reading this correctly. A FULL HOUSE FAN CLUB. As I read further I saw that Miss Ferrall and Mrs. Wingfield had endorsed this club and offered to be the club advisors! They even signed the card!
I asked the boys a few questions and found out that during their JW YOU class that day, they had struck up a conversation about Fuller House on Netflix and Full House (my favorite television show from my childhood). They told me that Miss Ferrall and Mrs. Wingfield liked the television shows too and wanted to meet every once in a while to talk about it! The boys said they’d first asked to meet once a week but that the teachers thought once a month would be more doable. Well that was enough for me. The boys and I headed to the office and I asked Mrs. Deri to give me the “stamp of approval” (which was a rubber stamp with our address on it). I stamped the card and told them their club was approved.
About 10 minutes ago, Sarah sent me this picture. She told me that today was their first meeting and that she and Wendy had dropped a huge knowledge bomb on the group! That’s right, Michelle was played by a set of twins! The boys had no idea!
I love that because these boys got to work with a different set of teachers at JW YOU they have been able to make a fun connection with Wendy and Sarah. And to quote Sarah, “I love that our Friday classed let us meet so many other kiddos!”
Thank you all for the work you do. Don’t take for granted the opportunity to get to develop a connection with the kids in your JW YOU classes!
I hope you all loved Tim Kight’s keynote at Hilliard U as much as I did. I took pages of notes and just can’t stop thinking about a few things he said.
Here are a few of my big take aways:
“You better make sure you’re 20 square feet is changing at least as fast as the change happening outside your 20 square feet.”
-I’ve dug my heals in before and pretended that change wasn’t happening. It just made it that much harder when I finally had to give in. Keep moving!
“Don’t just be someone in a role, become the best version of you in the role.”
-Continue to be on a journey to ELITE!
“You’re either in a problem, leaving a problem or headed towards a problem.”
-I love this. It makes me realize that life is never going to be easy. I need to get used to it. Comfort is fleeting.
“Courageous people are afraid but they do the right thing anyway!”
-This is the best definition of courage I’ve ever heard!
“You can’t have the great things without the hard things.”
-This needs no commentary.
Let’s continue to learn and grow together. Let’s continue to push ourselves to learn and grow. There are no people that I’d rather have so close to my 20 square feet!
Teaching is not for the faint of heart. We spend most of our days alone in classrooms, cafeterias, offices and playgrounds where we are greatly outnumbered! There are so many of kids and so few of us. Yet we keep coming back with smiles on our faces as we try to give as much as we can of ourselves to all of them.
Then there are days like the day after Halloween in which we not only get to go to school and be outnumbered by these children, but we get be outnumbered by there children who have eaten candy for breakfast and who have filled their lunch boxes with it, too. But, yet, we show up. We give it our all! We smile through it!
Stay strong, my friends! Happy day after Halloween to you!
We work hard and we want to be our best every day. In doing so, it seems that it is often times easier to remember our failures, the times we fell short and the moments when we were not at our best. What we forget is that in those hard times, we learn the most. Right now, I am in a season of flux. I am questioning some of the practices that we used to think were best. I am opening my mind to new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. I am forcing myself to look honestly at our data and pinpoint areas where we can grow, where I can grow. What I love about this is that as I force myself to be vulnerable, I am allowing myself to grow. It’s messy, it’s hard, it’s stressful. But, what I’m not doing is beating myself up about it. Just because I want to grow, just because I see that I can be better doesn’t make me lose one second of sleep or feel anxious about coming to school each day. In fact, it energizes me. So, I ask you this, how do you look at hard moments? Do you beat yourself up and say you’re not good at your job and feel like a failure; do you listen to the critics? Or, do you roll up your sleeves and dig in?
Do not allow YOURSELF to be your toughest critic. Do not allow yourself to get in the way of your own growth. Maybe you need to change what you’re doing in your classroom, so what? Maybe you need to rethink the way to teach reading, so what? We’re on a journey with no destination. When we feel like we’re arrived that means we’ve stopped learning! The best thing to remember is that we’re all in this together. We’re all in the muck and the mess! In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “there is no effort without error and shortcoming…”!
Keep doing the work, my friends!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
We talk a lot about being purposeful and intentional. We talk about getting our reps in and building upon the things we do really well. Being purposeful and intentional is HARD work. It means that we have to be honest and reflective with ourselves.
The dictionary.com definition of the word purpose is "to set as an aim, intention, or goal for oneself; to intend; design"
I love the use of the word “aim” in this definition. It means that to be purposeful we have to know where we are headed and then intentionally plan the steps it will take to get there. But, one thing that we often forget to talk about when we discuss purpose is that sometimes in an attempt to be purposeful and intentional, we miss the mark. That’s right, our aim is not always going to be spot on. We’re not always going to hit the target and that is OKAY…as long as we dust ourselves off, admit it and keep trying. That’s because purposeful does not mean perfect.
When I looked up the word perfect in the dictionary, I found this definition,"conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type."
The definition of perfect couldn’t be more opposite of who we are as educators. There is no perfect student, just like there is no perfect lesson, perfect teacher or perfect solution for a problem! There is no ideal. We want each of our students to be the best version of themselves. We want to be the best version of ourselves. This is why we must pick purpose over perfect.
If we live our lives striving for perfection we will be forever disappointed. But, if we live our lives purposefully we will take aim, set goals and adjust along the way. In purpose we learn to celebrate hitting the mark just as much as we celebrate getting close to the mark. And, in purpose we give ourselves a chance to readjust our aim when we are way off.
As we strive to act with purpose, we must remember that being purposeful doesn't mean staying at school all hours of the night lamenting over every move we are going to make the next day. Purpose means that we know where we are, we know where we want to be and we take aim. We might miss the mark. Missing the mark is how we learn! So, remember, purpose of perfect.
(A special thanks to our AMAZING instructional coach, Amanda Davell, for inspiring this post!)
My ONE WORD this year is PERSPECTIVE. One way I’ve lived out this word is by reading memoirs about the lives of people who are NOT like me. The lives of people who I sometimes think I understand but I have come to learn that I do not at all.
I used to feel like I could say that I understood refugees and immigrants because I know them, I work with them, I teach their children and I’ve even visited their homes. I welcome them to our country. I care about them. However, deep down, I knew that I was missing something and that I had much more to learn. So, I’ve been seeking out new learning to gain perspectives on the lives of these important people. I stumbled upon the book The Ungrateful Refugee, by Dina Nayeri.
As I’ve dug deeper into the memoir of Dina Nayeri I’ve learned that I have the wrong idea about refugees and asylum seekers and that I have certainly unintentionally offended many. My mindset has been—“I bet you are so happy that you’re here! You’re safe now.”
But after reading this excerpt from Nayeri’s book, I changed my thinking….
Refugees and asylum seekers are escaping violence, corruption, religious persecution and more and we have the audacity to say “He made it out! He’s safe!” Imagine the trauma and suffering that occurred in able to “make it out”. Imagine all that was left behind. Imagine all the culture shock, the humiliation endured by having to accept public assistance and charity. Imagine living in a refugee camp in an unknown country and being treated like a “faceless” person.
While I don’t have the answers, I do know that my perspective has changed. Instead of “I bet you’re so glad you’re here” maybe I’ll try “You are so brave to make the choice to leave your home. I’m sure that had to be terrible.” Or, maybe just “Welcome! We care about you.” I’m not sure what the right words are but I do know what the wrong words are. In trying to be helpful we can unintentionally be hurtful. As we continue through the school year and we support our children and families let’s continue to think about perspectives other than our own and choose our words wisely. I also know that for our children who endured the terror of escaping a country as a refugee or asylum seeker LOVE IS AN INTERVENTION!
I recently finished reading Lincoln on Leadership which is a book that analyzes the leadership qualities of Abraham Lincoln and connects those qualities to the behaviors that leaders today should be exhibiting. The following is an excerpt that made me think about our work with lead now. As Tim Kight says, people from the leader first and the vision second. As I read the following excerpt I was reminded of the importance of the leader having a clear vision so that as people follow they are certain to be going in a positive direction.
The first dictionary definition of a “leader” describes a primary shoot of a plant, the main artery through which the organism lives and thrives. In much the same way, organizations prosper or die as a result of their leader’s ability to embody and communicate the company’s vision. How a manager or professional influences others very much dictates the health of the department, region and ultimately the entire organization.
All this translates into one of the major factors that distinguishes leaders from mere managers: vision….You have to know where you are going, to state it clearly and concisely. And you have to care about it passionately.
-Lincoln on Leadership pg. 162
As I reflect on this excerpt I’m reminded that you are leaders in your classrooms. While your students will follow you first and your vision second, it is important that you clearly know your vision and that you passionately and concisely share that vision with everyone.
Last Friday we embarked on LEAD NOW training. Our first step was to take a look within ourselves. We took time to examine our priorities. We then chose 3 to 5 of those values as our CORE VALUES. Our next step was to turn those core values into ESSENTIAL INTENTION statements.
As we continue on our journey to be the best version of ourselves we must not think of our work last Friday as simply an activity to check off our list of things to do, but instead as the beginning (or maybe for some the continuation) of defining our why.
I created my list of values several years ago! I work to live up to those values every day. They help me with the CHARACTER piece of LEAD NOW---I know that my character is the experience that you have when you are with me. Sometimes, I fall short of living up to my values, but I will continue to strive to be the person and the leader that I want to be.
Have you decided on your value statements? Have you shared them with others!
I challenge you to be vulnerable and share your values with our staff!
Here are mine:
Be a coach and be coachable