Monday, May 28, 2012

Education is a family thing...

For many of us, the school year has just ended, or it is near ending. Each year brings its own set of ups and downs, and as such I have found education to be a profession that brings us together, rather than keeps us apart...

What I mean by this, is that it's no surprise there are many families where both adults are involved in the field of education in some way or another. And for those families where only one adult is involved in education, there is a certain level of commitment by the other.

Additionally, those who are a part of our immediate family also end up playing a role in our lives as educators. Perhaps I am a little late to the party, but I am just now beginning to realize the role that our families play in helping us to do what we do as educators.

Some of you may know, others may not, but for the entirety of the last school year my wife and I have lived apart. I accepted a job that is about 2 hours South of where my wife and I both grew up. My wife continues to work at her current job as a school public relations specialist, and our 3 year old baby yellow lab splits time between the two of us. We have hopes of my wife moving to my location for next school year, but we have basically become masters of the weekend marriage...

Though we are not physically together most evenings, my wife has most definitely been crucial in helping to keep me grounded and focused. She has been completely supportive in my professional goals, as well as forthcoming in providing additional perspectives and insights that have undoubtedly helped me in my career.

I have had great days at work, and I have had not so great days at work, but regardless of my day my wife and family have always been available to listen and hear what I had to say. Their time and energy, whether they realize it or not, is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes we just need to talk things out... sometimes we just need someone to hear what's going through our mind... sometimes we just need your attention...

As you begin your summer or finish the end of the school year strong, please don't forget to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices and the overwhelming commitment of our loved ones. They may not be at school with us, but you know as well as I do that their contribution matters more than they might ever imagine...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My first year as an administrator...

Today is the last day of school. Today is also the last day of my first year as an administrator...

I am an assistant principal in a school with 750 students. I am one of two administrators in the building, and we have a staff of roughly 70 certified and classified staff. I have a very supportive and encouraging building principal, and we have two great counselors and an awesome school resource officer with whom we work very closely. Most importantly, we have 3 wonderful administrative assistants who keep the building running, and make sure the real work is getting done. We also have a pretty awesome group of teachers and students as well!

Recently, I've been asked by several people to describe my first year as an administrator. As I thought more and more about the question, it became increasingly difficult to find the right words to describe the job of an administrator. Every day is an adventure for me. Every day is a learning opportunity for me. Every day I experience something I have never experienced before...

I am fortunate to have daily discussions with both colleagues and students about what we are doing to help improve student success. These discussions offer great opportunities for me to listen and learn, as well as to share my experiences that have helped shape me as an educator.

I greet every student every morning starting around 6:45 a.m. until around 7:25 a.m.. In my opinion, this is one of the most important and essential parts of my day. I don't get much "real" work done during this time, but the ability to say "good morning" to both students and parents on a daily basis is absolutely HUGE!

Once I do a quick check-in with teachers I normally get back to my office around 7:45 a.m. to actually start the day. Sometimes I come to find a clear desk, while other times I come to find a desk full of notes to return parent phone calls, and/or deal with disciplinary issues that happened between kids arriving to school and getting dismissed to class (you'd be surprised at what can happen in such a short time frame).

From around 7:45 a.m. until about 10:30 a.m. I do anything and everything... and I do mean anything that you could imagine or think of happening in a school. If there is any part of my day when I actually have a little control of what I do, it would be during this part of the day.

10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. is dedicated to lunch supervision. We have four lunch shifts with around 180-200 students per shift. Just like greeting the students in the morning, there is very little if any "real" work getting done during this time, but I would not trade this time for anything else. This time is used to interact and speak with kids on their turf during their social time; great discussions and valuable relationships are forged during this two hour block

Immediately following lunch supervision to the end of the day is probably the busiest time of the day for me. Upon returning to the office after lunch duty, I deal with anything and everything that happened during the two hour lunch window. Very rarely do I return to my office after lunch with a clear desk. On most occasions I spend the next two hours catching up and dealing with issues that arise before the end of the day.

From 2:40 p.m. until about 3:00 p.m. I supervise student dismissal. This is also another time of the day when no "real" work gets done, but I find it to be a crucial piece of the day that can't go undone.

3:00 p.m. until about 4:00 p.m. is having teacher conversations, returning parent phone calls, and trying to tie up any loose ends from the day.

On a side note, bathroom breaks are few and far between, and I eat my lunch every day with PBJHS students while they eat their lunch. 

My evenings are used to write and respond to emails, as well as to make parent phone calls. Additionally, there are evenings that require me to do sports and activities supervision. Most days end with me being both physically and mentally exhausted. 

Though the days are long and the job is difficult, I thoroughly enjoy and love my job. Despite the times of stress and frustration, I find my job to be quite rewarding. On a daily basis I get to work with great students and great colleagues, and because of that we are able to make a difference in the lives of our students. Being an administrator is about being a team, and at PBJHS we have a great team!

That is how I would describe my first year as an administrator...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tapping into the strengths of others...

If you work within an organization of any type, you most likely work with a wide array and variety of people. The colleagues with whom you work bring a ton of different experiences and unique thoughts to the table. These experiences and thoughts ultimately drive their approach and response to occurrences that happen on a daily basis at the work place.

Along with these different experiences and unique thoughts, each member of an organization has a unique and personalized set of strengths, as well as weaknesses...

Great leaders & great organizations seek out & identify the strengths & weaknesses of their colleagues. Once these strengths and weaknesses have been discovered, members of the organization are put in situations that capitalize on their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. Doing this requires candid and straight forward discussions between colleagues; doing this requires trust and strong relationships. Most importantly, it requires all leaders to not only know their colleagues, but to know them well enough to know where they can do the most good.

In my opinion, the most difficult discussion to have with a colleague involves their placement and role within the organization, especially if this role is not their idea or their first choice. As a leader you have the ability to see a more global picture of the organization, which means you can see how all the pieces fit together rather than a more hyper focused picture of individuals and departments/teams. The proper placement tied to the strengths of those within your organization is absolutely critical when it comes to moving any organization or team forward.

Perhaps the most important message I would like to convey in this post is that of discovering & harnessing the strengths of those within your organization. We are surrounded by individuals with hidden & undiscovered strengths on a daily basis, & it's those leaders who are able to tap into these strengths who will have the most success in helping to position their organizations for greatness.

As a current or aspiring leader, please recognize the importance of taking the time to get to know your colleagues. Get to know them well enough that you can comfortably know where they can do the most good based on their strengths. When people are placed where they can do the most good, all members of the organization end up benefiting...

Challenge yourself to find out more about your colleagues, and don't limit yourself to just professional interests. Learning about the personal interests and hobbies of your colleagues can lead to a more passionate workplace where outside talents can be utilized to enhance the overall environment. Enjoy getting to know your colleagues, because they will enjoy getting to know you and each other...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Too much of a good thing...?

Is it possible to care too much?

Is it possible to have too much passion?

Could you imagine a world in which too much of a good thing could actually turn out to be a bad thing...?

Can caring too much and having too much invested, ultimately narrow your focus so much that you are unable to see the bigger picture? Can caring too much cause you to dwell and concentrate on what has happened, while completing missing what could happen...?

Passion, I tend to think passion is a great thing, and as such I have tried to live a life full of passion and energy. I have found passion to be energizing to not only those around me, but also energizing to myself as well.

Passion, can it, in too great of a dose, hinder your ability to move forward and prevent the intended effect on others?

Does having too much passion toward a particular topic or area make you vulnerable and put you at risk? Does your passion blind you and become a liability which leads to a weakness...?

Perhaps I am totally off base right now...

Perhaps there is some truth to these questions...

Perhaps there is a happy medium, and in order to find that happy medium we must dip our toes in the water and test it. Test it to help find the path leading to the thin line separating the two. Test it to discover a healthy passion and a healthy level of care...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Strong relationships = strong teams

This year has been a year of growth, failure, and intense transition for me. It would however be difficult to narrow down the exact moments and circumstances that have helped mold and shape who I am as an educator. One thing is for sure, I have grown increasingly certain of the role that strong relationships play in the success and forward moving progress of any team.

As an administrator, I see myself as one of the main contributors & influencers on how well our teams function & operate. Constructing teams in a way that they can be successful, is perhaps one of the most important roles any administrator or team leader can have. I thoroughly enjoyed the "5 monkeys parable" (which I highly recommend you read) shared by @clouducation_. The success & strength of any team is reliant upon a couple factors, but it's one factor that rules them all....


A team with strong relationships among its members, will be a team that has the ability and power to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. Though there may be differences between our professional beliefs and our personal, it has become increasingly difficult to completely separate the two. Additionally, I see the importance of constantly evaluating the effectiveness of our teams. A team that is not achieving what it was established to achieve, must be changed, modified, or completely dissolved. We are all busy, so let's make the best use of everyone's time.

Mindsets that help teams:

- Teams are personal, but there are no hard feelings or grudges after a disagreement
- The proper personnel are involved, and the necessary resources and time are provided
- The focus remains on the big picture and the team does not waste time on the smaller issues
- The team comes with an agenda and is prepared to discuss controversial topics
- Decisions are made based on the best people and the majority
- Great teams are always open and willing to try new ideas for the sake of improving

Mindsets that hurt teams:

- Every discussion or disagreement is taken personally
- Something cannot be improved or changed due to limited personnel / resources / time...etc
- Remaining focused on smaller less important issues that don't affect the big picture
- Spending too much time on a topic that the team is obviously not ready or prepared to discuss
- Making decisions based upon the exceptions or the minority
- Not being transparent and open to other ways of doing things

Teams with strong relationships will be able to overcome any disabling mindsets that would negatively affect the forward moving progress of the team. When teams are built upon trust, open collaboration, and a shared common focus, teams are better able to address the organization's needs. Focus on establishing strong relationships with your team members and members of your organization, and you will be well on your way to achieving strong results among your teams...