“When you’re through changing, you’re through.” –Neil Pasricha, The Happiness Equation
Currently I am reading The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha. I have read and reread the section called “When you’re through changing, you’re through”. This part of the book speaks to me and it causes me to reflect on all of the changes I’ve made throughout my career and how without those changes I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve reflected on how without those changes I wouldn’t have made the mistakes along the way that have taught me so much. And, how without those changes I wouldn’t have become the principal as J.W. Reason.
I’m not sure if you know this, but I didn’t want to be a principal. I didn’t apply for the job at J.W. I didn’t even have my principal license when I was hired to be the principal here. In fact, I didn’t interview for the job. I sat in Dale McVey’s office and told him all of the reasons why he was crazy to even consider me for such a position. Well, for those of you who know Dale, you know that he is not easily swayed. Dale’s mind was made up and I was going to become the principal a J.W. Reason without a license and with four little kids including 15 month old twins.
Six years as the principal of J.W. have flown by. I am forever grateful to Dale for being the catalyst for change for me. I often times find myself thinking about all of the learning I would have missed out on if Dale had listened to all of the reasons why I thought I wasn’t ready.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m telling you this story. It’s not because I’m leaving. Instead, I’m telling you this because I want you to know that it is time for many of you to change. There are many of you who have been in the same position for many, many years. And, you are REALLY great at what you do. But, “when you’re through changing, you’re through” and I know that you are not through learning. You are not finished taking risks, making mistakes and feeling uncomfortable. It is my job to keep us all fresh and to push us all to our edges. So, in the coming weeks I will be asking you to have conversations with me about what changes might stretch you and keep you growing. Will everyone move around to new positions and grade levels? NO! But, I am going to help a lot of you try something new.
If you have a desire to change grade levels or positions, please let me know. If you don’t want to, well, that’s okay but I want you to remember the story of my “principal interview” with Dale. Sometimes we all need a nudge.
Here is your staff update for April 13th!
Sometimes I catch myself being annoyed with the mundane parts of my life. Packing lunches, making dinner, doing laundry, checking email, doing lunch duty-I have caught myself thinking how tired I am of doing these things. Then it was like life gave me a wake up call while, for the past week, I have been in bed. Pneumonia was no joke and it left me shivering, coughing and wrapped up in blankets for nearly a week.
As I spent hours and days doing absolute nothing, I had plenty of time to think. What I realized was that I take the every day duties of life for granted. As I lay there in my bedroom I actually longed for the opportunity to go to the grocery store or even clean a bathroom! Being sick reminded me of how much I take for granted. It helped me refocus and remember what it really means to find JOY in the little things.
Tonight as I made dinner, for the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed cooking for my family. I was even happy to clean up the dishes without feeling sick and achy.
Health is a gift. The duties of every day life are a gift. Remember to appreciate that you get to live your life each day and complete the little tasks that keep us moving through our days.
Here is your staff update for April 6th! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT'S APRIL 6th?!?!
I think it's safe to say that we have all learned so much with the addition of World Language to our curriculum! I was so honored to be selected as part of the selection committee for next year's TCLP Arabic teachers. I traveled with two other people from the US to join an interview team made up of employees from the US Embassy in Egypt and the Ministry of Education in Egypt. We spent three days interviewing 46 candidates for TCLP. The interviews were fascinating and opened my eyes to a completely different culture. At the end of the three days we selected 10 candidates and a few alternates! I am still anxiously awaiting an email from the American Councils regarding whether or not we have been selected to host another exchange teacher. I will let you know as soon as I find out!
Here are a few pictures from my trip. I visited the Pyramids of Giza (and even went inside one), the Sphinx, rode a camel, went to the Egyptian Museum which was amazing, ate stuffed pigeon, did a lot of shopping, ate Koshari, drank sugarcane juice, rode the subway, took a boat ride on the Nile at Night, visited Cairo Tower and the Citadel. It was fantastic! I learned some Arabic too!
Here is your staff update for March 29th. Enjoy your long weekend.
In interviews I always ask teaching candidates what children in poverty need. For years and years, I asked that question and anxiously awaited the answers that potential teachers would provide. I never quite knew what answer I was hoping for and then one day, 3 years ago, Tasha Allen gave me the answer that I didn't even know I was waiting for. She said, "Hope!" In that moment I knew that she was right and from that moment on my mindset about children in poverty changed.
Over the past few years, our district has tried to find a tool to help us learn more about our students' social emotional wellness. This year we landed on Panorama, a tool that seems to have the potential to provide us with valuable information about our students' mindsets. After spring break we will embark on our very first Mental Health and Wellness Data Teams in which we will begin to analyze our students Grit, Mindset, Sense of Belonging, Compassion, and Hope!
Please take moment to watch this TED Talk by Rick Miller as he discusses HOPE! (At least watch the first 10 minutes!)
Here is your STAFF UPDATE for March 16th.
We have so much to do right now. This week started out with fail to fills in classrooms, an assembly and continued with sick teachers, OELPA testing, gifted testing, and all of the other typical hubbub of our days at J.W. I have done a lot of BCDing this week. I've caught myself complaining about lots of things:
OELPA tests that are developmentally inappropriate
Lack of subs
Too many tests
...and much more.
In those moments of BCD, I lost sight of the good that was happening; the reasons to smile!
As I think back on the week I am overcome with pride as I reflect on the teamwork that you all displayed to help each other through the muck and mess that this week was.
We gave OELPA tests to 22 kindergarten babies on Monday and Tuesday. Testing kindergartners makes me crazy. But, even though it was painful, the beauty was in the teamwork that was displayed to make it possible. SEVEN, yes SEVEN staff members pitched in and helped Amy get her little friends logged in and help keep them focused for the HOUR LONG testing sessions.
We had several fail to fills and EVERYONE of them was covered by a staff member with a smile on his/her face. Jeff, Amanda and I had a great time in Whitney's room on Monday. (You should ask her to show you the slide show she made for her sub! It was amazing and made it so easy to teach in her room.) And on Thursday, in the midst of me throwing what could be considered a "hissy fit," Mrs. Watson stepped up and taught kindergarten on Thursday morning. Then, poor Colleen who spent half a day at the allergist came into school on Thursday afternoon and happily covered kindergarten for the rest of the day. Through all of this, no one complained...except for me!
As for too many tests, I haven't seen much of Eric this week, but I am so thankful that he takes such pride in the work he does. He does not hand teachers tests and leave them to muddle through on their own. He stays, he helps, he's all in.
Even with all of this craziness we continued to do amazing things for kids!
Our first, second and fourth grade teachers planned field trips for their students. This is the first time since I've been the principal at JW that everyone of our grade levels will have gone on a field trip!
Jim and friends created a Coding Gallery that was so inspirational!
March Book Madness is in full swing and Scott is quite the superstar because of it! Just ask the Prati twins!
And, One Word along with #jwreasonstosmile are keeping us focused on becoming the best versions of ourselves. Thank you to Tasha and Whitney for making our ONE WORD hallway display!
So, THANK YOU! Thank you for being and amazing team!
Here is your STAFF UPDATE for March 9th.
It's easy for me to lose sight of why we do what we do. My days are crazy and sometimes I get so caught up in putting out fires that I don't take the time to find the JOY in the little things. (I'm still working on my word!)
Today I was visited by some 2nd grade friends who were beyond excited to share their words with me. (Well, actually they came looking for Eric and since he wasn't in the office they settled for me.) Anyway, the excitement in their voices instantly drew me in as they proudly shared their ONE WORDs with me! Each child could explain exactly how they chose their word, why they chose it and how they would live it out! As they were talking to me, I couldn't help but slow down and enJOY the moment. As I spoke to these 2nd graders I could feel that we had made a difference. Think about it! We are responsible for 500 children. We have spent a month teaching them how to be the best versions of themselves. It took me until I was in my 30s to develop a growth mindset and realize that I could become a better person! The skills that we are helping our students build by spending time working on R Factor and Mindset will truly become life changing for them.
The thing about teaching is that our impact is measured by generations. It is often years after students have passed through our halls that our impact is felt. But, today, I felt it. So, thank you! Thank you for believing in what we are doing. Thank you for taking the time to slow down and invest in your own mindset and the mindsets of your students. You are making a difference and that difference will be felt for years to come.
Here is your staff update for March 2.
My word for this year is JOY. I’ve been working hard to practice living my word. I've worked to find the JOY in things and to bring JOY to others. I've been practicing my word but I definitely have more practicing to do before I get good at my word.
This weekend I noticed that I kept getting a notification on the dashboard of my car that said I needed to add air to my back tire. After doing so and then getting the notification again, I knew that I probably had a slow leak. So, after school on Wednesday I stopped at Tire Discounters. They told me they would fix my tire but it would be about and hour and fifteen minutes before they could have it finished.
I called my husband who was busy driving kids here and there so I decided to sit and wait. Soon I got impatient. I started to feel annoyed and my mind was filled with all of the things I had planned on doing when I got home from school
-help kids with homework
-and the list went on and on…
Then my thoughts shifted to “poor me”. I thought, “Why do I have to be sitting here in this tire store. I’m busy.” In that moment I was practicing a skill that I’d gotten very good at over the years-COMPLAINING. I was doing the opposite of my word. So, I quickly paused my negative self-talk and decided to take a deep breath and find JOY in my situation.
Here is the JOY is chose to find:
-I was sitting down! I never get to sit and do nothing!
-Discount tire was playing country music throughout the store! My favorite!
-I had a snack in my bag! Woohoo-protein bar
-I had caught the hole in the tire BEFORE ending up with a flat on the side of the road.
-The people at Discount Tire are SO nice.
-I had put dinner in the crock pot before I left home that morning so Justin could easily scoop food onto plates for everyone!
-I was only five minutes from home, so as soon as my tire was fixed, I’d be home in no time.
Instantly my stress decreased, I felt calm and I didn’t mind my current situation at all. Was my situation ideal? No, of course not! But, was I able to find some good in it? Absolutely!
And that one our and fifteen minutes soon turned into an hour and a half. Many times throughout that ninety minutes my thoughts drifted back to the negative. I had to intentionally control my thoughts. I had a TOUGH practice session on Wednesday, but I'm glad it happened.
What do you practice? Take a minute to listen to the words of this wise little boy as he challenges us to consider what we practice.
Here is your staff update for February 24th.
Parent teacher conference week is exhausting. It is SO much work. It is hard to spend all day teaching and then spend before school, after school and planning time meeting with parents. Even though we love sharing our students' learning with their parents, conferences add a lot of work to our days.
I have an amazing opportunity as the principal of our school to participate in conferences with many of you. I spent time in conferences that were celebrations, problem solving sessions, counseling sessions, hard conversations, and even conferences that were simply a time for parents to hear how much their children are loved. In every one of these conferences, I was blown away by how well you know your kids. You all started your meetings by sharing how much you love the child, you shared cute stories and brought smiles to parents faces! Even in the tough conferences the parents knew you cared about their children. You built trust this week.
Thank you for doing the work this week. On the journey to ELITE we showed that we are disciplined. We built skill. We didn't give up when things were difficult and we were tired.
Thank you for the time you spent away from your own families so that you could support your students' families. Thank you for supporting each others and for giving me so many more reasons to love you all so very much.
Here is your staff update for February 15th.
“Love is an intervention.” –Kate Miller
My friend Kate Miller often says these words, “Love is an intervention.” I’d never thought of it that way before. But, after I heard those words, I started thinking differently. I realized that Kate was so very right. Before our students can learn; before they can play nicely with one another; before they can walk in a single file line or participate in a book club they have to know they are loved.
As we embark on our conference week we all need to remember Kate’s words. Love IS an intervention. As we meet with parents for a short 15 or 20 minutes conference we are tempted to jump right in and talk about the things the child needs to work on, maybe even share our frustrations. I challenge you to remember how much our students are loved by their parents. Take some time to slow down and share the things that you love about their children. Let the parents know how much fun it is to spend your days with their little one. Even our trickiest kids can bring us so much joy! Take time to share that with parents. It might not be easy but it will mean the world to the parents. I know you love your students. Share that love with their parents.
Have a great conference week my friends. Take time to rest this weekend and stay healthy!
Here is your STAFF UPDATE for February 9th.
Jon Gordon says, “Remove the things in your life that don’t matter.”
That’s a big statement! Have you ever taken the time to step back and think about what is essential to your life? Have you ever stopped to think about what really adds value to your life and what doesn’t?
Thursday night, I participated in the Twitter chat for Jim’s Positivity Summit. During the chat, Jim shared that he has started leaving his phone at home when he walks his dog. I couldn’t help but think about how the small act of leaving your phone in your house could add so much value to a simple task like walking your dog. Think about how simply eliminating a tiny distraction like having your phone with you could actually bring such value to a moment.
How many times do we miss our moments because we are distracted by things that don’t matter?
As we strive to be ELITE, let’s focus on what matters! Let’s eliminate what doesn’t. Remember micro changes bring about macro results.
Here is your staff update for February 2nd.