Category: Culture (ISLLC 2)

A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.

Thankful Thursday: Unexpected Marvelous Surprises (ums)

Ums

Relatively recently I was the benefactor of an unexpected marvelous surprise. It was wonderful (in addition to being marvelous…as marvelous things often are).

Here’s how unexpected marvelous surprises (ums) work:

  1. You’re walking along, living your life in the way(s) you expected to be.
  2. Someone approaches you with an unexpected marvelous surprise (or one surfaces is some other form or fashion).
  3. It’s wonderful.

Ums are actually quite basic and they occur more frequently than some of us give them credit for. Also, when we recognize and appreciated them they have the capacity to be outstanding tools for developing relationships and fostering cultures of optimistic enthusiasm and positive progress in school communities and at home.

Ums have the power to support leaders and learners in framing the world as a surprisingly marvelous place, even and especially when they least expect it. Just one *um can fill a heart with joy and a soul with sustainable hope.

A viable school, classroom, and/or home practice to consider might be intentionally issuing 2-3 ums to people you serve on a daily basis. A nice note to your spouse, a new book from the library for your child, a “thank you” card for a teacher with some positive feedback on the wonderful impact he or she makes, or even the gift of a “magic” crayon to a kindergarten with the connected request for a “magic” drawing to be generated and hung on your wall.

Even the most simple, positive contact or communication can be an um in this busy world. Ums support cultures of caring and positive partnerships. Ums remind people that good is all around and that we are in this together!

The relatively recent um I’m writing about now began with an invitation to guest host a popular Twitter chat. My friend and colleague Dr. Mary Howard (@DrMaryHoward) contacted me and four other administrators from around the country. She asked each of us to guest host one in a series of five sessions that would combine to spotlight school leadership and collectively envision the incredible potential of forward thinking school communities (like the ones in which we’re each fortunate enough to serve).

Mary is the author of “Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters” from Heinemann. She’s also the co-moderator of this enormously meaningful and collaborative weekly twitter chat under the hash tag #G2Great. The chat is co-moderated by the amazing Amy Brennan (@brennanamy) and the remarkable Jenn Hayhurst (@hayhusrt3) and it takes place on Thursday evenings from 8:30 – 9:30 pm. Join tonight with guest host Matt Renwick (@ReadByExample) if you can!

The invite was a real um for me, and it turned into multiple subsequent ums as well! It was my first time guest hosting a chat. The learning happened on multiple fronts.

First, I was blown away by the input from and digital dialogue of the #G3Great PLN (Professional Learning Network, if you didn’t know…and even if you did), and second, I was officially introduced to “tweetdeck” and thereby exposed to a whole new world of possibilities with regard to shared digital learning. Frankly…it’s awesome, not to mention very user-friendly. Check it out. And here’s the Storify link to our chat session if you’re interested: #G2Great 8/4/16.

As if that wouldn’t have been plenty of connected ums to fill me up for some time, Mary wrote a way-to-kind, accompanying post on the wonderful “Literacy Lenses” blog (linked to text).   The post warmed my heart, humbled and flattered the heck out of me, and it also fill me with inspiration and the ever-important reminder that the most effective and meaningful leadership is shared!

I’m so fortunate to have such amazing partners, from the students, teachers, and parents I serve, to my building and central office administrative partners, to the remarkable educational and organizational leaders I’m so proud to be intertwined with as a global PLN on this leadership and learning journey. I learn and grow the best and in the most meaningful ways when I do it together with others.

So, look out for incoming ums along with opportunities to provide outgoing ums as you prepare for the start of another great school year. Inspire those you serve with continued demonstrations of your commitment to shared learning and leadership, and allow yourself to be lifted up and inspired by even the most fundamental ums that come your way, if for no other reasons then…um…you’re worth it!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thank you.

 

* In this context the term “um” represents a single unexpected marvelous surprise given the coinciding facts that, 1. The words “unexpected” and “surprise” are synonymous, making it unnecessary to include both unless speaking or writing in multiplicity (with the “s” indicating multiple “ums” as it does with regard nous in general), and 2. You shouldn’t say or write the phrase “an ums” because it simply doesn’t sound or read correct (and arguably, neither does this explanation, but whatever…you get it).

Thankful Thursday: Restoration

A Bit of a Break

I recently wrote about the “Zones of Regulation” in a post outlining a philosophical base and a program structure built on the foundation of restorative practices used for social-emotional learning and growth in the school community I serve and subsequently in my home.

Regarding both my role as a parent and an educational leader I continue to gain increased confidence in restorative practices with each passing day.

I’ve been a restorative kind of guy for as long as I can remember. It’s basic. When things heat up I take a break.

I use the term “heat up” to signify a spectrum of heightened emotions beginning with slight (including mild excitement in the form of frustration, impatience, resentment, etc.), which can happen at varying degrees of intensity relatively frequently in the busy worlds of parenting and educational leadership, and ending with intense (triggered by unusually stressful events or toxic situations), which fortunately happens quite infrequently.

Each “hot” moment is a challenge and a chance. Each one is an opportunity to exercise restoration, and in doing so to increase restorative strength.

Restoration is the act of moving from a state where emotional strain has the better of you to a state where you have the better of it. It’s making your way from emotion-veiled thinking (and the potential for connected action) to clear, core-value driven thinking (and the reasonable assurance of focused, core-value drive action).

As I continue working to enhance my restorative practice and impart a utilitarian understanding of the same to those I serve I find myself particularly grateful for the human capacity to restore.

What are your primary core values? Do you ever find yourself sliding away from them in thought or action? If so, how do you pull yourself back? How do you focus? How do you restore?

Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

One Thing: In It Together

Spin Around and Fall Down

Would you spin around until you get dizzy and then fall down on a single blade of grass? I would guess not.

Would you spin around until you get dizzy and then fall down on a lawn? If you’re a kid you would. It’s fun, and the lawn, thousands of single blades of grass standing together, would cushion your fall.

When you think of a lawn do you think of thousands of single blades of grass standing together? I don’t. I simply think of lawn; one thing.

My intention here is not to diminish the importance of each individual thing that makes up a whole, but rather to emphasize the fact that it takes every single one of the individual things inside of the whole that they’re in to make the whole whole…holistically, that is.

It’s been said in many ways: It takes a village, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, alone we can do so little; together we can do so much, I couldn’t fix your brakes so I made your horn louder, and so on…the list is endless. It’s well understood and appreciated that collaboration and community are essential keys to learning and growth.

While we do get some wonderful down time during the summer, educators spend much of that time thinking about and planning for enhanced practices for the fall.  I say we should do so on the foundation that we’re not alone in our mission to enrich the lives of the students we serve.

Three simple questions are helping me remember that while unique and important, I’m but a blade of grass within the lush, green, thriving, & cushiony, lawn that is the school community in which I serve:

  1. How will my practice invoke & demonstrate value for partnerships with the teachers I serve?
  2. How will my practice invoke & demonstrate value for partnerships with the parents I serve?
  3. How will my practice invoke & demonstrate value for partnerships with the students I serve?

How will yours? Don’t attempt to go it alone. Be a strong link but a link none the less.  Value the chain. Take pride in the state of the lawn. Plan for collaboration. Be intentional about it. The learning and the lives of all involved will be enhanced.

Now go spin around on until you get dizzy and then fall down laughing (preferably on something soft).

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

That’s Not Rain, It’s Rice.

Kids as Innovators

I was driving home from a great science museum with two of my four children this afternoon. We were in exploration mode. We saw dinosaur bones, we touched what Mastodon fur “probably felt like,” we watched live bats turn from tiny squirrel-looking things into enormous flying beasts with a simple spreading of their awesome wings, and we even spent some time with Big Bird and Elmo exploring the stars in a cozy little planetarium.

As I drove it began to rain. It was a freezing rain. I called my mother-in-law who was at home with the other two kids to let her know about the road conditions so that she could decide if she was going to make the trek back to her house or stick around at ours for bit. Evidently my six-year-old heard me talking about the rain because after I hung up the phone he commented, “That’s not rain dad.”

I asked, “Oh, what is it?” I got excited about the potential for a states-of-matter conversation with the little wise guy.

Instead, without a smirk or any other indication of sarcasm he confidently replied, “It’s rice.”

Was it the exploration mode? Was it the imagination? Was it the world-view of a six-year-old? Was it rice? Who knows?

What I do know is that each adult I know seems to have a bit of the kid who would suggest rice over frozen rain still kicking inside of him or her. It’s out inner-innovators. How in touch we are with that bit differs, but I don’t think it can ever completely go away.

What’s more, I would argue that that bit is mostly responsible to the “ovation” part of innovation. The part where we get super excited about an out-of-the-box idea; the part where a wave of chills runs up our spines at the thought of one of our crazy thoughts coming to life. Pablo Picasso said something about all children being artists and about the trick not being becoming one as an adult but remaining one. Could innovation, exploration, and the thrill of discovery work the same way? Aren’t all kids up for an adventure of the mind? Shouldn’t all adults be?

School communities are filled with outlandish ideas that are actually awesome. All organizations are. Effective organizational leadership encourages people to latch on the “what if’s.” It’s not always easy because it usually involves taking risks, and it more that occasionally involves moments that in which people hear cries like, “failure!”

In order to genuinely promote and nurture positive progress in teaching and learning school leadership must find ways to help those we serve get excited about hearing the “failure” cry. We must support our incredible colleagues, our enthusiastic parent partners, and our brilliant students as they learn to find comfort in the word “failure,” realizing that it means they’ve tried, understanding that it means they’ve stretched, valuing that it means they’ve believed in and trusted their inner-innovators.

We must be the nurturers of outrageous ideas because we know that they’re the ones with the greatest growth potential. We know that the only failures worth scoffing at are the failures to try and to press on through life’s challenges.

My son is kid. As a kid, he felt comfortable speaking his mind. Without hesitation he was ok with starting from rice. Eventually, on his own, he released the “r” part and told me that he could see that they were little ice balls melting on the windshield. By the time we got home he had come to the conclusion that the streets were slippery and that this was like snow but a bit different.

It’s usually not the initial light bulb that gets made; it’s some incarnation of the crazy idea. It’s a different form of the thought that pops into our heads when we’re inspired. The “can do,” aspect has to be there though. The “ovation” is critical. The part where everyone feels comfortable cheering about possibilities, even and especially the outlandish ones?

What if we stopped assigning homework? What if we only graded tasks that were meant to verify a student’s understanding of a thing and not those meant not to develop that understanding? What if we searched for ways to let kids play all day long while they learn? What if we found ways to let kids play all day long so they learn?

I don’t have the answers, but I do feel strongly that anyone seeking to enhance teaching and learning should be comfortable exploring any pathways that come to mind. Of course we should explore in safe ways. We can’t simply shift our practices on whims. However, if we view ourselves and those we serve as innovators, if we collectively appreciate the failed attempts that initiate and promote achievement, and if we lead in ways that support the child-like exploration of thoughts and ideas, then we just might be on course for some amazing discoveries that could otherwise be put down simultaneously with the loss of our inner-innovators.

As I sit and type this post it’s ricing cats and dogs outside. Makes me want to create and umbrella from egg roll wrappers. Maybe I will.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Press On.

Changing Minds: Respecting “Second Order Change” Stress

I’ve been looking at something all wrong.  It might seem that’s a problem, but in this case I’m thrilled.  In fact, I’m feeling a significant wave of relief.  Looking at something all wrong was a problem until I realized that I was looking at it all wrong, which really just happened about two hours ago.  Now that it has happened, I can adjust the way that I’m looking at it, which is happening even as I writing this reflection.  That’s why I’m thrilled.

I am now just over halfway through my first year as a building principal.  That means a couple of things.  It means that the honeymoon is officially over (or at the very least coming to an end).  Stakeholders are getting to know me in pretty significant ways and I’m getting to know them as well.  The “Howdy!” and “How do you do?” has morphed into “Where are we?” and “Where are we headed?”  It’s good.  I feel like partnerships are solidifying in significant ways, and that the change inherent in new leadership normalizing.  The key however is that is remains overt change, and it will for some time.

I earnestly believe that things are going quite well, it’s just tonight I was reminded tonight that change is change…good, bad, or otherwise.  Parents and students are reporting positive experiences, more and more teachers are expressing deepened understandings of my vision and making connection from it to their own, for the most part we are being patient with one another as we all work diligently toward ongoing progress, and we’re doing a wonderful job of giving each other the space and time we need to learn and grow.  There have certainly been bumps on the road, but all paths are leading lead to a focus on teaching and learning and a solid commitment to student’s wellbeing and achievement.

The thing that I’ve been looking at all wrong is my understanding of the significance that “second order change” has on stress levels and ongoing challenges.  I’ve all but dismissed it.  My community is already experiencing “first order change” change.  Me.  I’m new.  Even if it’s good (and hope that at least some of it is) it’s stressful.  So, anything else is “second order change.”  Any committee, any idea, and program, and suggestion that things might be different tomorrow, is additionally stressful.  It’s extremely reasonable that additionally stressful things would be accompanied buy additional stress.

I won’t stop making every decision that I believe to be good for the children I serve, but I can understand, and more importantly, respect the significant discomfort driven by “second order change.”  It’s not bad and it’s not wrong.  It’s an organic part of the growth process.

I believe that intentionally respecting it will help me better support and encourage those experiencing it.  I now have a deeper understanding that people are going to be emotional, concerned, and even uncertain as we move forward together, but I also understand that maintaining our focus and keeping the “together” part in mind will help us stay on target for continued excellence in education!

Live. Learn. Lead.

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Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

Like A Family: Doing What Needs to be Done at School

One of the great things about working in a school community is that there’s truly no shortage of faceable challenges.  That is to say, lots of exciting stuff is happening all of the time, and when we put our heads together we always seem to move through that exciting stuff and come out smiling on the other side (no matter how exciting it seems while were in it).

With a focus on the wellbeing and achievement of our students, educators celebrate the challenges that come our way.  We’re innately drawn to problem finding and solving.  We love to dig around until we see and understand what needs to be done, and then we love rolling up our sleeves to work hard until it gets done!

Today my wonderful secretary said something that I’ll never forget.  In the face of some atypical challenges that came streaming in long before the bell even considered ringing, she looked at the group of us who were working feverishly to consider all possible solutions, and she calmly said, “Well, I guess we’ll just do it like a family…whatever needs to be done.”

Each of us stopped for just a moment, we looked at her, we looked at each other, a visceral wave of joy surged through my body, and then I smiled.  I do what I can to stay calm in moments of veritable commotion, but I have to admit that my blood pressure was raising a bit this morning.  Her lucid and immeasurably important comment was just the antidote I needed.  No suggestion could have been more poignant.  Just hearing it spoken refocused me.

I remembered that it was going to get done.  I remembered that we were going to land on workable solutions.  I remembered that the amazing team of educators and support staff with whom I work always pulls through each and every challenge into positive progress for everyone involved.  I also remembered that because the remarkable Meadow Brook staff bands together like a big old family caring for one another’s children each day, the students we serve aren’t aware of the challenges we face…only the passion we have for learning and growth.

Today I’m extremely thankful for my wonderful secretary who was so eloquently able to put our work into such a positive perspective with only a few words spoken at just the right time.  I’m thankful for a staff who, with unwavering patience and professionalism, rolls with the challenges we face, a parent group who trusts our expertise and collective ability to care for and educate their children, and a student body who comes joyfully to school each day excited about the learning process.  Our school is not without its challenges, but we are indeed like a family, and together we will most certainly continue get it done!

Live. Learn. Lead.

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Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

It’s All Good: Fostering Excitement for Positive Progress in School

Today a student approached me and said, “I had a good day I art!”

I replied, “Way to go!”

Then, with a huge smile on his face we gave me a fist bump and walked away.  He was exited.  He was proud.  Unsolicited, he was reporting positive progress.

I suppose that I could have read this interaction in a number of ways.  Maybe he spends his days thinking about how he can impress me with good behavior and success reports.  This happens to be a student with whom all of the adults in his life (including me) have been engaged in a targeted effort to understand and address some relatively unique challenges that he’s facing.  He could have been looking for ways to show me that he’s taking responsibility for his learning.  But that would be giving me (and the other adults in his life) a lot of credit.  Maybe our praise isn’t always on his mind (although the concept seems decent fodder for a future reflection).

No, what I’d rather believe is that he could have simply been excited about the positive progress he was reporting.  Even if the thinking about, the planning for, and the reporting of “good” news itself had something to do with the excitement, it could have been ultimately intrinsic, or at least a catalyst to internal satisfaction.

I know a great teacher named Bill Cecil (Best Year Ever: Winning Strategies to Thrive in Today’s Classroom) who talks about “setting the table.”  He insists that it almost doesn’t matter how kids experience the feeling of success initially, just that they do.  He believes that feeling it leaves them wanting more.  So do I.  Maybe this particular student had been building an understanding of what it feels like to have a “good” day and was compelled to share his excitement over that achievement.

In my experience, people (big and small ones) like to do good, to feel good, and to share good.  At the risk of sounding naive, I would like to think that this student found an opportunity to share the “good” that he had done along with the “good” that he was feeling.  Which reminds me that as as an elementary school principal I should be doing all I can to drive a culture in which that kind of sharing is celebrated.  Just a simple “way to go” and a fist bump spread his excitement to me.  I was energized.  I was proud.  I wanted to share.  I’m sharing now.  It feels good!

So, feel good, do good, and share good.  Model the triad to those you serve and embed the practice in your school culture.  Celebrate when others do the same.  People will catch on, it will spread, and most importantly, students will have enhanced opportunities to understand what an incredible impact “good” can have on their motivation and excitement for learning.  I you’re not already, at least give it a try…you might like it.  Even if you don’t, remember that with regard to exploring pathways toward enhanced learning, it’s all good!

Live. Learn. Lead.

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Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

Honk: A Focus on Authentic Connections with Students

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Kids could play all day long. Maybe adults should let them.

 

A few nights ago I woke to my one-and-a-half-year-old-daughter shouting, “Mommy…Mommy!”  I figured that she meant, “Daddy…Daddy!” so I peeled my eyes open and engaged in the ceremonial wait to determine if this was a call to action or a false alarm.  It was a call to action.  My forty-year-old body reminded me that it doesn’t appreciate lying down for a few hours before attempting to stand up again.  I moaned and I groaned (a science and a art), I pulled my self out of bed, and I zombie-walked to the kid’s room (embedding every Lego, puzzle piece, and Matchbox car in the bottom of foot along the way).

There she was.  An angel.  She was standing in her sleep sac, looking up at me with those big blue eyes through a tangle mess of matted hair, arms outstretched, and low and behold, the aches and pains melted away.  I was going to get to rock and snuggle.  What could be better than that!?

I lifted her out of the crib, rounded up the necessary accouterments (three little animal-themed “lovies”, a water bottle, and whatever tiny board book she brought to bed last night), and I carried her to the rocking chair.  We settled in, I gave her a squeeze and a kiss on the head, and then I naively closed my eyes and let my head fall against the back of the chair.  I was ready for a bit of a nap.

That’s when I felt the tiny dot of the tip of her index finger on the much less tiny dot of the tip of my nose, and that’s when I heard my angel of a daughter gleefully exclaim, “Honk!”  Foiled again!  So, we played “Honk” for a few minutes, giggled some, snuggled a bit more, and then we both returned to sleep in our own beds for the next few hours.

She wasn’t scared of the dark or rattled by a bad dream, she wanted to play, she wanted some one on one time, and she wanted my undivided attention.  It reminded me of a few important things regarding my work as an elementary school principal:

– My students generally seem more comfortable, responsive, and motivated to partner with me on learning when I actively seek to build meaningful relationships with each of them.

– It seems truly important that I work hard at knowing each of my students’ names, calling them by their respective names consistently, and actively engaging in enthusiastic dialogue with each of them as often as opportunities present (brief or extended).

– When I’m successful at spending more of my time in classrooms, cafeterias, and on playgrounds, than in meetings and offices, the culture of my school community seems enhanced and increasingly focused on positive progress surrounding teaching and learning.

– My favorite part of this job is the part where I get to be with the people I serve.  The more I can focus on that part, the more joy I experience in my professional life. Furthermore, I would argue that increasing joy enhances my capacity to lead well.

As an educational leader it’s important for me to always remember that kids want and need to be seen, heard, and valued.  In fact, it’s arguably the bottom line of everything that we’re trying to do at school.  Given the countless hours I spend reading about and reflecting on leadership and learning, I love that my one-year-old-daughter and a late night game of “Honk” are the things that keep me grounded in learning, growth, and an authentic mission-focused paradigm.  Go figure!  Go “Honk!”

Live.  Learn.  Lead.

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

A Joyful Return: Making the Most of Starts and Stops

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Finding joy for learning and growth in every moment causes every moment to be meaningful.

 

In previous posts I’ve articulated my thoughts about the wonderful starts and stops that come along with public education.  One of the great things about being an educator or a student is that we have various opportunities during the course of each school year to refresh, renew, and reset, by leaving our classrooms every once in a while and catching up with family, friends, and even ourselves.  For a few special days and even weeks we get to lounge around and not think about schedules, systems, or structures.

I would argue that we need these breaks to stay fresh.  Another thing about being an educator or a student is that we push ourselves to the brink of our capacity in between these breaks.  In doing so, it truly feels wonderful to take a breath every now and again.

With all of the wonderfulness that comes along with being able to rest in this way, I’ve had an interesting feeling creeping into my belly over the past few days.  It’s not been a feeling of nervousness or stress.  It’s been a feeling of excitement!  Sure, I would love to have more time to spend with my incredible wife and kids, and the thought that the five o’clock alarm is going to be ringing in my ears really soon doesn’t exactly thrill me, but I absolutely love my job, I love my school community, and I feel truly blessed to get to be a part of the amazingness that is Meadow Brook Elementary!

As I think about the fact that this break is coming to a close, and that Monday brings the start of another chapter of hard work, exhilarating challenges, and collaborative learning, I’m as motivated as ever to do great things for the students, the teachers, and the parents that I serve.  I’m as motivated as ever to do great things for myself.  And when I don’t hit the mark of greatness (which happens occasionally as a matter of course), I am as motivated as ever to forgive myself, process thoughtfully, find meaningful solutions to real trials, and to mover forward joyfully with positive progress.

Lots of people are coming back to school on Monday.  I believe that an overt attitude of enthusiasm coupled with patience and compassion for the varied emotions that will no doubt be present in every school community, is a viable combination for transitional comfort.

No matter your role, as you go back to your school communities next week I wish you every bit of joy that comes along with the fulfilling work we do.  May energized and meaningful learning and growth accompany your return…and may you never lose sight that you have the power to make it happen!

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

Some Ideas to Build Partnerships in my School Community

Bullet Points and Highlights.  I can drone on for hours without skipping a beat.  I can do the same on a piece of paper.  As I work to refine my written communication skills I’m focused in large part on being simultaneously thorough and concise.

When I began as Meadow Brook Principal about fifteen weeks ago I was committed to effective communication.  Every piece of feedback I’ve received since that time has pointed to the fact that my staff wants the same (effective communication…from me).  They want to know what’s going on, they want to know my understanding of and vision for what’s going on, and they want to have consistent access to that information.  Turns out however, that they don’t want to hear or read me droning on.  They want it quick, and the fact is that’s all they have time for.

So instead of the lengthy diatribes that I specialize in, I’ve begun to send my messaging to teachers under the subject line “Bullet Points and Highlights.”  I throw down anywhere from five to ten bullet points with anywhere from one to five (or so) sentences each.  Then I highlight one key sentence or phrase from within each bullet point.  The idea is that folks can choose to read thoroughly or do a guided skim.   I’m not quite where I’d like to be with it…still learning and finding my concise voice, but I’m on the path.

Reflection and Anticipation.  This one is for parents.  The feedback I’ve received from this group of stakeholders is that they want to hear about and get to know my story.  I interact with teachers and students all day long but there are many parents with whom I’ve had little time to chat informally.  In lots of cases, my reflective writing is the best way for the parents I serve to get to know who I am, what I stand for, how I think about leadership and learning, and where I am in own growth and development.

This structure is less refined than the Bullet Points and Highlights at the moment (still working out the kinks).  Basically I take a few paragraphs to articulate my thoughts on how things have been going and a few more to point out some things that I’m looking forward to in the coming weeks.  As it’s developing I find it to be a good companion to the Week at a Glance that we send out listing upcoming dates and events.  I typically link specific and connected blog posts to this piece, and I invite parents to join me on my reflective learning journey at Berg’s Eye View.

MBuilt.  This is the Meadow Brook unified instructional leadership team and it’s just what it sounds like.  We’re headed into our sixth week of implementation and things seem to be going well.  Teachers want to be listened to, heard, and valued…and they should be!  I lead a building filled with incredible educators.  My vision for MBuilt is that it will unfold into an increasingly effective vehicle for genuine collaboration on the positive progress of our school community.   We’re currently in the process of digging into a collective vision and making sense of how we intend to operate as partners in teaching and learning.  I’m incredibly excited about our progress, and so far I’ve walked out of each meeting totally energized!

SOE (pt).  The School of Excellence (parent team) is a volunteer group and open to anyone who wants to join at any time.  Like MBuilt, attendees are welcome to come to as many or as few meetings as they can.  It’s literally a place for me to get together with a group of parents every other week to discuss the important issues of the day.  Our first meeting happened on Friday of last week.  We spent most of our time discussing ideas for enhancing our culture of sanitation and hand washing.  As you can imagine, with allergies and the potential for sharing illnesses with one another at school, this is a critical issue to stay on top of.  We made significant progress and are getting ready to bring some ideas for implementation to our teachers.  I’m thrilled to be working hand in hand with Meadow Brook parents in this way and I’m looking forward to nurturing the initiative as it develops over time.

SBS Classroom Visits.  Visibility and accessibly were both deeply connected to data that I’ve been collecting from my staff with regard to what they need from me.  Side by Side Classroom Visits are opportunities for me to work together with teachers and students while managing some of the other tasks that are required of me through each school day.  Have you ever sat at the dining room table with your spouse or at a coffee shop with a friend, working on different tasks but engaged in conversation and productively sharing time with one another?

I have a twenty-minute SBS schedule into my calendar each week with each classroom.  Teachers get my digital calendar at the beginning of each week so they know when to expect me.  They’ve been very flexible when unavoidable urgencies have pulled me away or prevented me from coming.  During an SBS I’m not observing or evaluating, I’m simply working side by side with learners in the classroom.  It has its pros and its cons, but so far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I’ve received tremendously positive feedback from teachers and students.

 M2M Meetings.  I haven’t started this yet.  It’s still in development.  It’s a strategy that I’m stealing (and adapting) from the great Ben Gilpin (@bengilpin).  My friend and fellow principal, Ben meets with his entire student body for forty-five minutes each week while his staff has some extra time to plan, collaborate, or do whatever else it is they need to do.  I can’t quite do that, but I can do a scaled back version.

At Meadow Brook our mascot is the Meadow Mouse.  My intention in the new year is to organize a series of grade level meetings between myself and my students in which we can talk “mouse” to “mouse” (M2M) about expectations and progress toward our collective goals.  The idea is that we can address critical issues and collectively celebrate progress while giving teachers a bit of extra time.  The goal is to get an official green light from teachers at MBuilt and put together a schedule ASAP.

It’s all under development.  It’s all driven by the data I’ve been collecting and the reflection I’ve been doing regarding partnerships in my community.  It’s all open for adaptation.

Live. Learn. Lead.

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Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.