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!
We work so hard and last week as I listed to a podcast with Jon O’Leary as he interviewed Sister Madonna Buder, I couldn't help but compare us to an 87 year old nun!
Sister Buder is Nike’s “Iron Nun”. She began running at age 48 and has since completed 45 Ironman races; 300+ triathlons and won her age group dozens of times!
Check her out!
Here are my big take-aways from the podcast.
1-If there’s anything worth doing, do it well.
2-It’s not about when you start it’s about having the courage and audacity to begin.
I can’t help but connect those take-aways to the work we do each day. On our journey to ELITE, what separates us from others is our drive to do everything well. We are truly relentless in our journey. We are open to feedback, coaching and are seeking out our colleagues for ideas to get better at what we do.
We are audacious. We do not back down from a challenge. We try new things, we do not do things just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Whether we’ve been teaching for 30 years or 30 days or somewhere in between, we are on a journey. The way we approach our journey separates us as well.
I never thought I'd compare us to a nun, but I think we have a lot in common. I also think we can learn a lot from her drive and determination. Check out her interview on Jon O'Leary's podcast.
There is a lot of work to do…in case you haven’t noticed!
This time of year is overwhelming. There are a million things coming at us from every direction.
Remember our PURPOSE!
We are here to do what’s best for kids. Right now our kids need LOVE more than anything.
We have 90 new students in grades 1-5 and nearly 100 new kindergartners. Give yourself permission to slow down. Take time to build relationships. Don’t panic just yet about academics. We will get there.
Let’s make sure we do the right work.
We talk a lot about goals at the beginning of a new school year. We have goals for ourselves and goals for our students. Our team has goals, our school has goals and it seems that the list of goals goes on and on.
As you reflect on these past 3 days of school, think about your goals or those expectations that you've set for yourself, your students and your team. You've most likely met some of them and some still feel like they are far reaching.
This summer I reread parts of one of my favorite books Make Your Mark by Coyte Cooper. In my review of Coyte's book I was reminded of this important tip:
"Discipline is doing something intentional to close the gap on your goals regardless of whether you feel like it or not."
You might hear me talking about "closing the gap". This is an amazing mindset to have about goals or expectations. Think about it this way, all we have to do each day is work to close the gap on your goal. We don't have to meet it, we just have to get closer to it! Get a little better today than yesterday and a little closer tomorrow than today. And, soon, we will have closed that gap!
Kindergarten lunch is the perfect example! Our goal is for them to independently eat their lunches and clean up in 30 minutes. But on Wednesday we took one step to close the gap and that step was to get them in and then get them out! That's it! By day two we were teaching them to raise their hands instead of roaming aimlessly around the cafeteria! The gap closed a little bit more. Who knows what Friday will bring, but I do know that we will close the gap just a little more!
What are your goals and expectations for yourself and your students? What is the first step you can take to begin to close the gap?
Remember, just a little step toward the goal each day!
Here is your staff update for August 24th. (NEW TEACHERS--CLICK THE WORDS "STAFF UPDATE TO BE TAKEN TO THE PDF OF THIS WEEK'S UPDATE)
As I was driving to school today I couldn’t help but laugh as I thought back to the first day of school! We started the year with a SOLAR ECLIPSE! It’s safe to say that none of us have ever started a school year like that before.
From day one, this year has been full of exciting events. I am so grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for pushing yourselves to your edge. Thank you for all of the hard work that you put in to R Factor, JW YOUniversity, JW Grows and all of the little things that you do for kids each and every day! Thank you for giving me grace as I continue to grow as a leader. I learn from you every day. My goal is to SERVE you!
Have a great summer! Relax, enjoy your families, oh and don't forget to order your staff shirt!
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending the Iftar dinner at the Noor Islamic Center. This dinner is a celebration that occurs during Ramadan.
Ramadan is the Muslim Holy month at which time Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. The Iftar dinner was a gathering of community leaders of all faiths from around Central Ohio. We celebrated by breaking the fast together at 8:47 PM when the sun set. There were many speakers including Mayor Ginther and leaders of the Muslim community. The Valedictorian of Hilliard Darby High School also spoke. The message was one of peace and empathy.
As I experienced this event, I couldn't help but be filled with a sense of pride! I am so proud of the way we honor and respect the cultures, heritages and religions of all of our students at J.W. Reason. Being with members of the community who feel the same way that we do only reinforces our mission to be advocates for families and supports of our students who come to us from around the world.
Here is your staff update for May 25th.