Friday, May 27, 2011

The journey continues...

I was anxious. I was just 21 years old and I was going to be teaching German to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. I hadn't even finished my student teaching when I accepted my first teaching job. My first day on the job was two weeks before Christmas break in the middle of the school year. The students were really behind and would require a significant amount of time to get caught up. The situation was not ideal to say the least, but it was an opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of these students. The journey began...

The last 6 years teaching at Seckman High School have been great, and I am extremely thankful that I was offered this opportunity. There were "down" days, but I can confidently say there were many more "up" days. Great strides were made both personally and professionally, and I contributed to building a German program that is now over 280 students strong (1,800 total students in the school).

My building Principal, @mrgrimshaw, provided the ideal environment in which to work. I was supported, encouraged, and given the opportunity to push myself and grow professionally. I was encouraged to take risks and do what was needed to help my students. I was provided a light so I could see along my journey, but never was I given the map. My opinion was valued and my voice was heard, but most importantly he put the needs of his students and staff before his. He has embraced a school culture that is built upon trust and autonomy. He has modeled effective school leadership in a way that I one day hope to more fully understand. The journey took a turn...  

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know that I have been interested in obtaining an Assistant Principal position. I recently was offered the job as the Assistant Principal at Poplar Bluff Junior High School; I graciously accepted this offer. The excitement and jubilation were huge, but unfortunately reality was not too far behind.

I would be leaving a great school. I would be leaving great friends (@JPPrezz, @thompson_shs). I would be leaving great students. I would be leaving what I know as home. I am now back to where my journey started; I am anxious...

I am not anxious because I don't have the knowledge or leadership experience, nor am I anxious because of my lack of excitement. I am extremely excited and I can't wait to get started. Part of me wishes there was not a summer break so I could immediately get going. I am anxious, eager and ready to make a huge difference in the lives of my future students and colleagues.

If you are a current, retired or aspiring administrator, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, as well as any advice you would like to offer.

Thank you for your time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Savvy School Leader: Part 1

Last week I read a blog post by @drtroyroddy titled "Suggested summer reading for teachers and parents." One of the books, "Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader", immediately grabbed my attention. I decided to purchase the book through amazon after reading a little more about the author and the book's content.

In this blog post I will share some of the more profound and enlightening quotes from the first 3 secrets. It is my hope to challenge and stimulate thoughtful reflection for both current and aspiring educational leaders.

The First Secret: When you go to see the wizard, take Toto

"The popular leadership fads typically have much less relevance to schools than to corporations," and once these fads "heat up in educational circles, they cool in the corporate world."

"Leadership is a matter of a whole person in a whole environment interacting in concrete ways with other whole persons in the immediacy and unpredictability of the moment."

"Even if it were possible to change leadership styles, this would only complicate and weaken leadership."

"Leadership that is based on techniques and styles is actually not leadership. It is manipulation, and it is ultimately self-defeating."

"The leaders of high-performing organizations are not would-be "stylemasters." Rather, they tend to be people of strong character with strong commitments who maximize their strengths."

The Second Secret: They'll never understand

"In leading, as in so much of life, there is simply no substitute for actual experience; those who haven't done it can't truly know what it is like."

"Routine work drives out non-routine work and smothers to death all creative planning, all fundamental change, and make whatever grand plans you will, you may be sure the unexpected or the trivial will disturb and disrupt them."

"Teachers become principals in part to make a difference, to right wrong and correct flaws that chafed them as teachers and to assert a vision of schooling as it should be. The first great shock awaiting them is discovering how little power they truly have."

"The higher a person rises (in an educational system), the less direct contact he/she has with the organization's staff and clients, the more attenuated and filtered his/her personal influence becomes, and the more subject to misinterpretation are his/her actions."

"The leader's actions send powerful messages, which, over time, shape the school community to its core."

The Third Secret: Change is what it means

"Human beings are pattern-seeking animals, thus change almost always causes ambivalence and resistance."

"Change and innovation threaten competence; Educators are required to abandon something they know how to do and adopt something they don't know how to do."

"A leader must challenge his/her colleagues to face the realities they have preferred to avoid."

"Change agents must demonstrate their caring and support, their commitment to work with staff to take the difficult steps in new learning."

"Leaders must help colleagues link the new with the old, to see the future not as disconnected from the past but as related to it."

"Teachers must be permitted time to complain. This opportunity can't last forever, but if it is denied altogether, resistance simply goes underground and undermines the necessary change."

"Pressure without support leads to resistance and alienation; support without pressure leads to drift or waste of resources." Michael Fullan

Hopefully these quotes will get you thinking and reflecting. Stay tuned for Part 2, secrets 4-7.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This has gotta be the Good Life

Have you ever been watching a movie and heard a song that you immediately found on YouTube followed by a concentrated bombardment of the "replay" button? This exact scenario happened to me recently. On a side note; if you want to annoy your spouse I would highly suggest this strategy.

As I listened to the lyrics and to the song I was almost instantaneously in a better mood. For the record, I was not in a bad mood to begin with, but my rather indifferent mood was upgraded!

Now, I am not going to say that everything in life is rainbows and cute little puppies because that would be unrealistic, and I believe in "keepin it real."

Both as Educators and beings of this universe we can't always control the things that happen in our lives, but we can however control how we react and respond. "A bend in the road," by Susan Phillips, (which I HIGHLY recommend you read) really had quite an impact on my new personal goal of trying to look at life through a much more optimistic lens. I think we all could benefit from more optimism and positivity both in our personal and professional lives... #justsayin

So, the next time something doesn't quite happen as expected or life throws you a curve ball, take a moment and put things in perspective before reacting. Think about Susan's blog post and think about the "good life." Be the exemplary model of control and poise. Don't relinquish your power by letting the situation control you. Go to your "happy place," and once you have achieved your state of calmness, think about the lyrics of this song and address the situation...   

"Oh this has gotta to be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life

The hope is we have so much to feel good about"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My top 5 superstars for Educational Leadership

Dr. Troy Roddy has been blogging for only a short time, but his impact on the blogging community and school leadership has been huge. At "The Art of Education," Dr. Roddy blogs predominantly about school leadership and the ways school leaders can reflect and ultimately effect change at their schools. I have found Dr. Roddy's blog posts to be inspirational, motivational, and extremely pertinent for anyone looking to have a strong positive impact.

Mel Riddile is a secondary principal who continually gets me thinking and reflecting on school leadership. His blog posts are specific and objective-oriented, as well as being concise and to the point. Mel's blog, The Principal Difference, should be followed by ALL school leaders.

Follow Todd Whitaker on Twitter, and read some of his great books. Todd is a former administrator who offers great insight into the world of school leadership. One of my favorite things about Todd is that he will engage in a conversation with you on Twitter without hesitation. Great resource here!

As someone who is still fairly new to the social media scene, Dwight Carter has been extremely influential when it comes to providing a realistic and relevant approach to school leadership. Dwight is a high school principal who has been sharing his principalship journey. I am most impressed by Dwight's unyielding positive attitude and commitment to excellence; "Be Great." Mr. Carter's Office is Dwight's blog.

Lastly, I would recommend you follow Chris Lehmann. Chris is the principal of The Science Leadership Academy. Though Chris' blog posts are not always contained to school leadership, he does a great job of highlighting some of the major issues school leaders need to be considering and need to be aware of. Chris blogs at "Practical Theory."

What great Educators would you add to this list...?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The dark side of collaboration...

One of the most important things we can do as Educators is to spend the time talking and collaborating with our colleagues. Whether these colleagues are in our buildings or are members of our PLN, the added benefits of sharing and collaboration are undeniable.

Here is where it gets a little complicated...

Imagine there are two math teachers discussing ways to cover a particular concept or learning objective. As the discussion develops, great ideas and potential solutions are being shared, but then all of a sudden there is a difference in opinions.

The two math teachers are both extremely dedicated professionals who want to do what is best for their students, but the path toward doing what is best for their students could not be more different. Each math teacher has a fundamentally different belief on how to best deliver the instruction, as well as how to assess and track student progress.

There is no doubt that some strategies and methods work better for some Educators than others. The problem is, what happens when we KNOW that one particular strategy or method is better for students, but because of the philosophical beliefs of an Educator that strategy or method will NEVER be used...

I fully support and believe in Educator autonomy. We all got into education to have a positive impact on the lives of our students, and the path we use to achieve this impact SHOULD and MUST be of our own choosing.

How can we do what is best for our students while embracing and encouraging Educator autonomy while also recognizing the different fundamental and philosophical beliefs we may have of education?

This is a question that has been plaguing me for a while, and by no means do I expect to find the answer any time soon, but I am however interested in hearing what other Educators think.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and reflections :)


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Don't be afraid to act!

On Friday I was doing my weekly duty in the main lobby. I have come to really enjoy this duty because it gives me the chance to greet many of my students as soon as they walk through the main doors. The simple act of saying "hello" while using a student's name can go a long way when trying to grow and develop student relationships.

As I stood there on my duty I noticed a young girl standing in the corner. She was standing alone and her head was directed toward the floor. I didn't think much of it...

Several moments passed as I continued my barrage of hellos and good mornings to my students. My eyes once again met the young lady standing alone in the corner. I thought to myself, "perhaps she's waiting for her friends..." I thought about it a little this time...

Another few moments passed and I was able to greet several more of my students. Just as the previous time, my eyes yet again came across the young lady standing alone in the corner. It occurred to me that this young lady might not be waiting for her friends, but rather she may be waiting for the bell to ring so she may go to class, as if the bell was some "freeing" signal that would save her from isolation and loneliness. I thought about it a lot this time... 

I decided I would go talk to her and keep her company. Now, I know I am probably not the coolest person in the world, but just maybe this small conversation with me could help this student get her day started on the right foot.

Our conversation lasted maybe 2 minutes, because almost as soon as our conversation started the bell rang.

I immediately felt disappointed. My opportunity to help and connect with this student who was in need was shortchanged because I failed to act. I failed to respond in a timely manner that could have provided a more in depth conversation. Was this young lady's Friday a much better Friday because of our conversation...? Probably not, but I can't be sure because our conversation was so short.

Please don't make my mistake be being hesitant, and please don't push the responsibility of acting on somebody else. If you notice a situation where you can help or make a difference, I urge you to step up and do what is right. Your actions may not be remembered, they might not be recognized, or they might not even be needed, but I would rather we all error on the side of overacting than failing to act...