Category: Ethics (ISLLC 5)

A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of the students by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.

Are You My Leadership Philosophy?

Do you remember the classic P. D. Eastman book, “Are You My Mother?”  In the book, a baby bird is hatched while his mother is searching for food.  Realizing that his mother is gone, he sets out to find her.  His first step out of the nest is a long fall, followed by a plop on the hard ground.  He’s not able to fly (yet), so he begins his search on foot.  He’s never seen his mother, and he knows nothing of the world, so he askes each charater he comes across if he, she, or it, is her.  In the beginning of his journey, he walks right past his actuall mother and doesn’t even know it.

He asks a kitten, dog, a hen, a cow, a truck, a boat, a plane, and even a “snort” (which, as you may remember is a steam shovel).  None of them are his mother.  Just as he becomes tired, frustrated, and maybe even a bit frightened, the “snort” sets him down in a nest.  As fate would have it, it’s the very nest in which he was hatched, and also the very same one that his mother eventually returns to with a loving smile and a fresh worm.  This time, after his long serach, and a bit more experiential knowledge, he recognizes her.  She’s a bird, he’s a bird, and she is…without a doubt, his mother!

Now mother’s don’t evolve in the way that leaderhsip philopophies can.  By that I mean, your mother is your mother, and that’s that.  However, the bird’s search for his missing mother gives inspires me to think about the evolution of my leadership philopophy, especially as a first year administrator.  I’ve been thinking about leadership for several years now.  My interest extends way back into grade school, where I explored my leadership self at school, in clubs, on sports teams, etc.  Throught my leadership life, I’ve been blessed to come across, and learn from an incredible cast of characters.  The amazing people I know and work with continue to help me understand myself, my role, and my values in deeper and more meaningful ways each day.

My leadership philosophy is grounded in core values that haven’t budged for as long as I can remember.  Those values are the things that drive who I am personally and professionally.  Among them are vision, hard work, optimism, communication, compassion, reflection, autonomy, faith, and more.  When I see, or am able to excersise those core values in my daily life, I recognize them and feel a great sense of comfort.  There are also uncomfortable times.  As you might imagine, I regularly find myself in situations that I haven’t been in before.

In my role as a new administrator I am often facing challenges for the first time.  When I do, I find it helpful to look to collegues, mentors, research, friends and family for input.  I am on a journey similar to P. D. Eastman’s baby bird.  In order to evolve, even though I do return to my core as a base of operations, I find it helpful to consistantly be asking, “are you my leadership philosophy?”  Every time I feel like I’ve got it down…I realize very quickly that there’s plenty more to learn.              Sometimes it starts with a long fall and a plop on the ground, then there’s the seemingly endless searching that leads to the relentless twists and turns.  Those twists and turns are sometimes followed by exhaustion, frustration, and maybe even fear, but finally, in every cycle, I end up face to face with the something that I recognize and am comforted by, mixed with some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.  While this never happens with my mother, it’s really cool when the bits and pieces I pick up on my journey add to that comfortable thing.  I think that every leader should have a solid base that excemplifies his/her composit core values.  However, I think it’s that drive to jump out of the proverbial nest, and that willingness to search that really pushes us to be our best for ourselves, and for those we serve!  And by the way…thanks mom!  I’m glad that you’re my mother.

 

A few thoughts/ideas you might consider:

– Jump out of the space you’re comfortable in…even if you fall and plop, because (and here’s the cheese) we do tend to walk before we can fly.

– Ask/look around.  Whether or not you feel your leadership style/philosophy is entact and effective, seek to evolve.

– Consider that you have everything to learn from everyone you encounter, and from every situation you find yourself in.  It’s amazing how people grow when they’re open to it!

–  Embrace change, celebrate diversity, thrive on possibility, and extend yourself by truly accepting others.  Every philisophical outlook you come across is not going to mesh with yours, but that doesn’t necissarily make it less valid.  Consider that someone else’s thoughts might fit into your paradim.  Ask, “are you my leadership philosophy?”  Whenever you can.

 

A few articles you might read/people you might follow:

http://whittyplcguy.blogspot.com/2014/03/get-back-up-again.html

by Tom Whitford

@twhitford

http://jonharper70.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/1-1-1/

by Jon Harper

@jonharper70bd

http://starrsackstein.com/category/community-outreach-education-should-extend-outside-the-classroom/#more-2629

by Starr Sackstein

@mssackstein

http://colorfulprincipal.blogspot.com/2014/03/meat-potatoes.html

by Ben Gilpin

@bengilpin

http://leadingmotivatedlearners.blogspot.com/2014/03/40-things-i-know-about-education.html

by Tony Sinanis

@tonysinanis

are you my mother

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

The Fine Art of Eating Crow

Making Mistakes

Making mistakes is an amazingly meaningful and important component of learning and growth.  We have to do it.  If we didn’t do it we would run the risk of stagnation.  Without mistake making, we could forget that stumbling is a wonderful way to learn balance, that falling is great start to getting up, and that failing is an incredible tool for understanding what it takes to succeed.  I am a true Edisonian (it’s a word now).  I love that Edison got giddy about making mistakes!  I appreciate that he checked failed attempts off of his list, watching the list morph into an expansive doctrine on how not to do stuff, create things, and achieve goals.

The bigger the list got, the closer he came to doing that stuff, creating those things, and achieving those goals.  Best of all, when folks laughed, told him so, or gave up on him, it didn’t cross his mind to join them.  It wasn’t important that they believed or gave him any kind of credit for forward progress.  He just wanted to make good things happen.  He yearned to be a factor in positive change.  However, the positive change was the reward, not being the factor.

Being Right v Doing Right

Creating a light bulb is about offering people a mechanism by which to see with clarity in dark places.  We in education can relate because we have a very similar intended outcome.  We seek to bring light into dark places too.  We work to facilitate processes by which those we serve are able to maximize, and even exceed their potential.  We believe in what others might consider impossible.  We understand that the world we are ever-preparing for is in many ways beyond even our most outstretched imaginations.  We know that we don’t know.  We seek to know more every day.  We push ourselves to the max.  We hope.  We dream.  We believe.  Nowhere in the core of the values that drive us does “rightness” play a role.  It ain’t easy, in part, because we are regularly bombarded by voices that insist we’re wrong.  Ironically, many among us consider those voices, not in self-defeatist ways, but in reflective ways.

Educators are a kooky bunch of do-gooders who would much prefer to do the right things than to be the ones who are right.  At our core, we want our communities to learn and grow, whoever those learning and growth paths are paved by.  I believe that it behooves us to consider that as we walk through the fast paced, high intensity, and sometimes-exhausting world of our daily lives.  It’s hard though.  When frustration creeps in, we can always fall back on the action part of “rightness” and ask ourselves, “what’s important here?”

Have you ever moved forward with consensus, failed, then looked up at faces that were no longer consenced (probably not a word…but you get it)?  Have those faces ever worked to cut you down with assertions like, “Wow you really dropped the ball there!” or, “Ouch, you couldn’t have been more ineffective at that?”  Casting blame, pointing fingers, and other sundry attempts to deflect or distract should actually be considered boons for educational/organizational leaders!  They give us opportunities to model value driven professionalism and maturity, to show those we serve that even when the road is long and windy we are better off to tread with optimism, and to thicken our skin (which can help everyone focus).

I don’t prefer to cast generalizations.  However, every experience I’ve had leads me to firmly believe that being right is almost entirely inconsequential in the face of authentic learning and growth.  Remember that while process is key, we should always keep our eyes on the prize.  Student achievement, positive cultural development, learning, growth, fulfillment, and joyfulness perpetuate enhanced communities.  Arguments and extensive perseveration over who’s right, who’s wrong, or whose idea it was, diminish communities, weaken systems, and distract from the incredibly important work we do.

Don’t Over-Chew

So, eat that crow folks, and don’t over chew.  Swallow it like a pill and move on with your life.  Keep it light hearted and positive.  When people point out the messes you make, the balls you drop, the mistakes, the challenges, and the errors along your path, own all of it and thank them.  Then, ask for their help in moving forward.  Give them the voice that they need.  Offer autonomy inside of your partnerships, distribute credit for achievement, and overtly appreciate those you serve for their dedication, hard work, and contributions.

Remember that you are but a link in this chain.  Celebrate the strength of team, reserve pride for your own reflective growth, and help others understand that you are ready to take responsibility for positive progress, even when that means eating crow.  The more you practice, the easier it becomes, and the more impactful you will be on other individuals’ ability to see past distracting behaviors and into value/goal driven professional practice.  Besides, crow isn’t so bad with a dab of ketchup.  Just don’t put your foot in your mouth…that really stinks!

IMG_4534

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

Working Together Works!

I had some amazing experiences this week.  Actually, I have some amazing experiences every week; it’s one of the benefits of being an educator!  A few of those experiences stand out and connect deeply to the professional journey that I’m finding myself on.  This past Wednesday, I attended the latest in a series of meetings through which a group of colleagues are working together to develop a concept born from a collective desire to share the responsibilities, the challenges, and the joys of educating students across our district.  We are hosting a conference focused on the incredible work that the teachers in our buildings are engaged in.  We are relying on that work, as articulated by those teachers, to fill the sessions of the conference.  It’s turning out to be an exciting model for authentic, real-time, professional learning.  I’m very much looking forward to attending!

Many of the teachers in our district have integrated varied degrees of Ron Ricthhard’s Making Thinking Visible philosophies and routines into their instruction.  By way of the upcoming conference, those teachers are teaming up to communicate the process and outcomes of that work to their colleagues.  Our committee, which is made up of administrators and teacher-leaders, is dedicated to the careful design and implementation of a platform for them to do so.  Together, we are all working hard to so something amazing for children that no one of us could possible do on his/her own.  It feels good.  It’s exciting.  As we brainstormed, hashed out the possibilities, and boiled it all down, I realized repeatedly how significantly enhanced the possibilities became as a result of our teamwork.  Working together works!

One of the connections lies in the nature of my assignment as it stands today.  I was recently given the honor of serving my district as an Interim Principal for an elementary school community who’s Principal is healing from an accident.  Fortunately, she is doing well, and all signs point to a speedy recovery.  I will officially begin this adventure on Monday.  I am truly honored and humbled by the opportunity.  On Thursday, I visited the school to say “hello,” and to begin building relationships with staff, students, and parents.  I was amazed!

This community, through a challenging time, has come together brilliantly!  The halls are energized and filled with learning artifacts, the classrooms are beautifully and intentionally designed, decorated, and maintained, and the people are warm and welcoming.  In collaboration with our central office administrative team, through deliberate and authentic partnerships, and with a universal expectation of distributed leadership, this phenomenal learning community found a way to thrive during adversity.  They are doing it together.  Again, working together works!

When I arrived back at the Middle School where I serve as Assistant Principal, I was quickly reminded of what I have known for some time.  The collaborative, value driven, nature of our population is outstanding!  Leaving a school community that I love, colleagues I’ve grown and connected with for four wonderful months, and an incredible group of students and parents, even if it’s only for a few weeks, is a significant action for me.  The knowledge that they will continue to thrive during this shift provides me with significant joy!  Already, they are working together, setting up structures, communicating next steps, and putting all of the pieces in place that will make it happen.  They are working together.  Again, and one last time, working together works!

The fact is, we are always better together.  As I move into the second half of this incredible school year and prepare for a new role that I’m honored to fill, I will keep collaboration, distribute leadership, and teamwork in mind.  I will listen, I will encourage and support, I will value the good fortune of being surrounded by incredible colleagues, and I will be thankful that we are in a position to provide the highest quality K-12 education to a district full of amazing students!

IMG_4084

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

7 Ways to Practice/Model Effective Leadership

 

Some Thoughts and Ideas

I’m pretty sure that the whole “apple and tree” thing comes up so frequently because there’s some truth to it.  The apple really does seem to fall pretty darn close to the tree.  Remember though, apples do come in all shapes and sizes, they are unique from one another in many ways (even those from the same tree), and they have the capacity to grow, and to change.  I think I’m not talking about apples any more.  Regardless, I would argue that modeling plays a big part in growth and development.  Furthermore, I find modeling to be an invaluable practice of leaders who seek to influence positive development within the communities that they serve, and among the populations of those communities.

Like apples, leaders come in all shapes and sizes.  Isn’t it cool when we see a kindergartener being kind to his peers in overt and intentional ways?  A kid is showing his leadership value when he makes sure that everyone get’s a turn, or shares some of his snack because someone else forgot to bring one, or takes the time to build friendships with those who are to shy to reach out.  Education thrives when leadership is not only distributed, but also recognized in all of its myriad forms.  Below are seven ways one might consider modeling effective leadership.  I assume that many leadership/education blog readers are already doing these things in their personal and professional lives.  I would suggest that insomuch as you are (and whether or not you intend to), you are working to guid others down a path to productivity and wellbeing.  By being prescriptive about the ways in which you lead, you are well positioned to perpetuate a positive culture of distributed leadership.

1.  Stay Grounded In Your Core Values

Covey relentlessly reminds me of this important leadership practice, and I appreciate it!  The first step to making this happen is to clearly articulate your core values in one form or another.  Even a quick list scratched out on a legal pad will do.  What do you hold sacred?  Why have you chosen a career in education?  At he end of each day, if you accomplish one thing, what would you like it to be?  A few concepts that come to mind as I scratch out my list are kindnessopen-mindedness, reflective thinking, autonomy within collaboration, progress, and patience.  There are more, but simply articulating this group gets my wheels turning.  How am I functioning as a school leader within these categories?  What could I do to enhance the connection between my work and my core values?  Is that connection impacting the community that I serve in positive ways?  Where could I shift my thinking/practice to gain positive momentum toward collective outcomes?

I recently had a meeting with a mentor who reminded me how important it is to be authentic in my convictions, and to see them through.  Our discussion brought to light the often-difficult nature of facilitating cultural shifts.  He is currently engaged in an ongoing process by which the school community he leads is updating their strategic plan.  He has committed to developmental structures that give voice to the community.  Those who are served by the plan will develop the plan.  It resonates deeply with me because our district is doing the same.  To that end, our superintendent has worked hard to design and implement a process based his clearly articulated core values of collaboration and stakeholder ownership.  He has invited the gamut of our community members to contribute through varied means.  He has made clear that this is to be “our” plan, and that every voice will be listened to, heard, and valued as it unfolds.  A great way to model leadership and build enthusiasm for positive progress!

2.  Keep Moving Forward

It ain’t always easy to stay the course.  Especially because we’re fallible, and there are many bumps, twists, and turns along any given trail we attempt to tread.  Education provides us with lots of opportunities to feel that throwing the towel in is an option.  However, we know full well that it isn’t.  Re-consider, adapt, change your mind, shift your thinking, stomp your feet and pound your fists if you must…but never give up!  Simply the modeling of optimism, and a commitment to positive forward progress toward any goal, with any group, in any situation, can mean the difference between growth and stagnation.  A lot of “any’s,” no doubt, but I’m standing by it.

3.  Trust Your Gut

Remember “Raiders of the Lost Ark?”  The scene where Indiana Jones stepped off what appeared to be a menacing cliff, into what appeared to be a gigantic abyss?  I don’t recommend that.  However, I do appreciate the decision as it relates to leadership modeling.  Dr. Jones (while a fictional character) was well read in biblical history and lore; he studied countless texts, paintings, and artifacts, had critical conversations, taught college level courses, and was guided by his father’s detailed journal.  In the end though, he had to make a decision based on a feeling.  The feeling was generated in large part by his extensive preparation…but it was still a feeling.  Do you ever have a feeling about the right thing to do and the right way to do it?  I do.

There is a whole bunch of grey in education.  I believe that’s one of the reasons we spend so much time thinking and talking about failure as a path to achievement.  Edison knew something about how a light bulb would eventually hold and project sustained light.  He wasn’t going in to each of thousands of experimental attempts blind, but he did need to trust his gut to some extent.  He knew that the thing he aimed for was possible, just as Indiana Jones new that something was going to prevent him from falling as a result of his “leap of faith.”  Sometimes it doesn’t matter that we can detail the “why” or the “how” of a thing.  It’s fine line though.  As leaders (even if we’re only leading ourselves down life’s path) we have to hone our gut-trusting abilities.

As with any aspect of life, in leadership, degrees of caution are required for progress.  We can practice by taking reasonable risks.  Reach out to someone who you feel would be interested in collaboration.  Implement an after school program that gives some student group a voice in your school improvement plan.  Offer selected teachers, students, and parents learning tools that you may not fully have vetted yourself.  Try Stuff when your gut tells you it’s good stuff to try.  The more you do it in non-earth-shattering situations, the better you will be at doing it when the ground threatens to shake a bit.  Also, the modeling will help to generate a sense of value, autonomy, and even enthusiasm in those who you serve, and those who share leadership responsibilities in your organization and in your community.

4.  Be Reflective (Learn)

It tends to be much easier for me to dole out advice that to take it.  I’m getting better though.  I’m becoming increasingly reflective.  Occasionally I find myself working to help others through challenging situations by reminding them that patience is a virtue, or that it takes two people to have an argument, or things usually work out better when you think before you speak.  During many of those occasions I realize that the same advise would work well for me.  I feel a bit silly at first, but then I realize the opportunity I’m facing.  I can take that advice.  I can enter any advice into my paradigm of regular reflection, and I can use it to help me develop in to the kind of father, husband, educator, and person that I’m constantly aiming to be.

Life is filled with chances to think about what you might have done.  I would suggest that the most effective reflective practices take it in a bit of a different direction, asking:  What will I do know?  What will I do next?  Organizations, systems, programs, and people are ever-evolving things.  When leaders model the ware withal to move through their own individual evolutionary processes as reflective adapters, they stand to perpetuate cultures that are capable of the same.  If you value growth and development born from reflection, model it.  You will find that people appreciate the open-minded, adaptable, forward thinking practice of truly reflective leadership.  I believe that reflective leadership can dig deep in enhancing organizational outcomes.

5.  Commit

Stuff takes time!  If you believe in one or more of the practices outlined in this post, make a commitment to incorporate it/them into your leadership practice.  If not, make sure that you do know what works for you, and re-up your commitment to that/those things.  If you are already deeply committed to the leadership practices that fit you and your community, and need no further development…well done.  You can take a nap now.

Of course, there are varied levels of commitment.  Some commitments are intended to last for a lifetime, while others are meant to be relatively short-term and experimental.  The key is to see things through to their end.  Don’t be wishy-washy.  Your population of students, parents, and colleagues will appreciate your well thought out & decisive nature.  They will come to understand and feel comfortable that your word is your bond, and that things get will get done when and how they are supposed to.  When I do this well, I always see positive results.  When I drop the ball on this (which unfortunately happens), I tend to experience disappointment from others, and myself, along with a diminished enthusiasm for progress.  While those things can be repaired with authentic and sympathetic communication, it’s best to avoid them when possible.  When leaders regularly model fulfilling intentional commitments to things that they can handle well, they promote a relaxed sense of comfort among those they serve.

6.  Believe

I would not presume to tell you what you should believe; just that believing seems to be a good way to go, and therefore, a good thing to model.  I happen to believe that big dreamshard work, and wellbeing are three essential ingredients to a productive and joyful life.  I end my blog posts by asserting “Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.,” specifically because of that belief.  Take it or leave it.  However, it’s been a great practice as I reflect through this blog.  It repeatedly grounds me in that set of beliefs, and while they are already deep-seeded aspects of who I am and how I function, I find the reminders helpful.   Some educators believe that all students can learn, some believe that the ‘good’ in everyone will eventually shine through, and some believe that every integration is a pathway to learning.  Making your belief system overt in your words and actions helps people understand who you are and how you operate.  When leaders are intentional about modeling this practice they are likely to enjoy the reciprocal benefit of similar output from others, which enhances relationships and generates companionate communication, development, and growth.

7.  Appreciate Adapted Outcomes

It doesn’t always work out the way you intended, but it does always work out.  The train is going to keep moving whether or not you’re on it.  It’s all right to be disappointed in outcomes, but it’s not all right to dwell.  One good way to be all right with the way things work out (when they don’t work out the way you wanted them to) is to appreciate it.  Adapted outcomes can be very useful to organizational leaders.  In part because they have hence become the reality of things, and in part because they can provide great insights as to how things have evolved.  Model excitement over outcomes as points along a path and you will be modeling patiencegenuine learning, trust in the process of growth, and comfort with change.  All important leadership concepts to keep in mind as you work to fulfill you individual goals and address the vision of your school and district communities.

So What?

In writing this post I’m suggesting that any one of the above ways is a decent starting point for a brainstorm regarding leadership.  However, while I have a long way to go, my development has led me to consider that any and all combinations therein could be useful as scaffolding for quality leadership and leadership modeling (arguably one in the same).  That in mind, I think any and all advice should be dissected.   I think it should be broken down to its smallest parts, questioned and even denied, laughed at, kicked around, and crumpled up into little bits of unrecognizable fire fodder.  Then, if an inkling of connected interest remains, it should be considered in whatever ways the considerer feels comfortable.  Only if that process ends with some sort of “aha” moment should the advice be adopted.  So do what you will with what you just read, and please keep in mind that I’d love to hear about it!  As always, your input is welcome and appreciated.

IMG_4055

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

STILT: Patience, Compassion, & Calm

Today I was reminded how important patience, compassion, and calm are in making sure that those you love understand how much you care about them.

This morning my two year old was not thrilled.  He’s going through a bit of a thing, which kids do.  I understand.  He called out just after seven o’clock (better than just after four o’clock).  “Mommy…Mommy!”  Technically, that’s better than “Daddy…Daddy!”  However, given that my incredible wife does the great majority of the “wake up in the middle of the night and service our children” duty (and that seven o’clock slept me in for two hours as it was) I headed to the scene.

For any two-year-olds reading this post, you understand that Daddy is an entirely deficient substitute for Mommy.  For those of you who are not two…take my word for it.  Regardless, I wasn’t met with, “Thank you for coming to my aid father,” or, “welcome to my room Dad, it’s a pleasure waking up with you…shall I give you hug?”

Instead, a nasally, screeching bellow forcefully rose from beneath the covers of my darling child’s bed.  “No,” he protested (with considerable fervor, if I hadn’t made that clear), “I want Mommy!”  On it went from there.  Turns out, he came around after a while, some apple sauce, a cup of milk, an English muffin with grape jelly, and lots of patience from his mother.  And guess what…we still love him – maybe even more!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the learning that accompanies life.  I’ve been working to reflect on, synthesize, and communicate that learning as it relates to me, my personal and professional paradigms, and anyone else who wants to share it.  I’ve been using this blog, Twitter, conversations, and varied other forms to engage in that communication.  I’ve played with multiple formats.  You are reading the latest incarnation of my growth, development, and wellbeing process.  I’m calling it STILT (Something That I Learned Today).

The word stilt has multiple definitions, including one about a bird with long reddish legs.  However, there’s a common theme among those definition, and that theme is support.  A stilt is a thing that supports something else.  Critical reflection has been an incredibly important, impactful, and significant support for my personal and professional learning, growth, and wellbeing.  It is a stilt.  So, after about a full year of following through with my self-commitment to blog regularly, I’ve decided to take it to the next level.

Look for regular STILT posts right here on Berg’s Eye View.

Join me for #STILTchat, a new half hour Twitter chat (short but sweet – and, if all goes well meaningful) on Sundays from 1-1:30pm eastern standard (nap launch for the brood).

Tweet your daily learning anytime using the hash tag #STILTchat (if you don’t mind me stockpiling and sharing it out via the brand new Berg’s Eye View STILT archive at http://bergseyeview.edublogs.org/category/stilt/)

Follow this simple format (and adapt to meet your needs):

1.  Briefly explain something that you learned (or were reminded of) during any given day.  It can be something momentous, something lighthearted, or something that falls anywhere in between.  Just make it something that you find meaningful.

2.  Describe the situation in which the learning took place.

3.  Give one or more suggestions as to how you (and those who read/hear about your learning) can apply it.

Above, I described a situation in which I was reminded that children don’t always ask for our love, attention, guidance, or compassion in direct ways.  Sometimes they scream, throw things, and act out.  As a parent and an educator, it’s my job to remember that they need to know how much I care about them through it all.  In fact, maybe even more so during the rough times.  Some suggestions:

Be patient

Listen well to the message behind the noise.  People from two-years-old to ninety-two-years-old get frustrated.  They feel frightened somtimes, they’re sad when they feel lonely, they might have trouble expressing themselves in kind ways when there’re tired or hungry.  Patience and understanding go a long way to confront those and other challenges with positive relationship building and emotional growth opportunities.

Show Compassion

We are more alike than we are different.  Be relatable to students, friends, and others that you spend your time with.  It could go a long way to foster growth, productivity, self-actualization (for all involved), and even joy…a wonderful thing to feel!

Stay Calm

Whatever is happening is happening whether you’re overwrought or calm.  If you’re like me, you think more clearly, act more decisively, and simply feel better when you’re able to stay calm.  Be intentional about your mood, energy, and attitude at school, at home, and everywhere you travel.  It could make a positive impact on your life and the lives of others.

 IMG_0564

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

Kindness is Awesome – Get it, Give it, Good!

Today one of our counselors sent the link below via e-mail.  She wrote that she wished she had sent it during Kindness Week, and that teachers could use it as a follow up with their classes.  After watching the video, I wondered how often kindness week comes along.  I feel like we might consider having at lease one kindness week each month.  Maybe two?  What about three, or even four?  How about an ongoing series of perpetual kindness weeks that run congruent to one another for an extended period of time…like possibly forever; just a thought.

The clip reminded me of the power of kindness.  It made me think about the emotional charge that kindness offers those who give and receive it.  I thought about the people I serve.  There’s a great song by James Taylor called “Caroline in my Mind” (you may have heard it).  In the song, Mr. Taylor sings, “there ain’t no doubt in no ones mind that love’s the finest thing around,” and goes on to reference kindness as a way to communicate love.  The implication is that being kind to someone, saying kind words and acting in kind ways, communicates that you care about him/her…and doesn’t it?  Furthermore, wouldn’t we all (or at least most of us) agree that caring for each other is one of the finest things around?

As educators, we know that the lives of those we serve are enhanced when they realize that we care about them.  When our caring is overt, our students learn better, our faculties have a more harmonious workspace, our parent populations feel increased confidence in the fact that we work day and night to provide the highest quality academic and social growth environments and experiences for their children, and that we do it because we care.  Kindness expresses caring.  Kindness is truly powerful.

At the end of the clip, where the middle school student explains how deeply impactful a simple act of kindness was to him (with tears streaming down his face) I couldn’t help but feel that power.  What a great feeling.  What an awesome thing.  I recently wrote about being kind to yourself, and I still think that it’s important.  However, this clip reminds me how profoundly important and gratifying it is to be kind to others.  Being kind lifts people up.  It pulls people together and causes extraordinary things to happen.  It helps people believe in themselves and in one another.  Kindness is as much a gift to the giver as it is to the receiver…if not more.

If you have three and a half minutes, watch the video below.  Absorb the feeling it generates in you.  Think about how kindness contributes to your life in any and all roles in which you function.  This clip makes me take stock, go back to the basics, and seek growth in my ability to shower those I serve and care about with kindness.  It makes me want to work harder through frustrations and disappointment.  It makes me want to remember my core values.  It makes me want to grow.  What does it do for you?

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

 

Kindness in Communication

This week I’ve had some cause to think about kindness in communication.  I’m always talking about how incredibly busy the business of education is.  There is literally something happening at every moment during the day.  Something needs attending to around every corner.  We are each running at an extraordinary pace.  At the same time, we’re attending to the incredibly important task of being patient with our outcomes.  Learning and growth takes time.

Even in the midst of an arguably frenetic pace, educators are required to be thoughtful.  We have to be.  The required envisioning, planning, processing, implementing, critical thinking, adapting, re-envisioning, innovating, and implementing (again) cycle is dizzying.  Ironically, we seem to love it.  We thrive on the challenges we face.

One of the most important lessons I’ve been learning as a new administrator is that none of us do it alone.  I’m blessed to be working in a community where stakeholders in all positions understand that, and they take advantage of the gift of partnerships by communicating with kindness.  In fact, as I’ve been working to keep up with the tasks while keeping student achievement and wellbeing in mind, I’ve heard from a variety of partners…all willing to help, all ready to collaborate, all positive and optimistic – including our incredible students.

In the past two weeks my counterpart and I delivered the Code of Conduct talks to 1150 patience 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  We focused on our community’s expectations as they relate to the individual and collective, short and long-term achievement of goals for our students.  We spent some time going over the rules and the consequences, and we spent some time relating to the groups that we spoke to.  We addressed concerns and celebrated successes.  We talked about being helpful, accountable, respectful, and thoughtful (H.A.R.T.’s underpinning behavioral guide).  We reminded students that they are each expected to “lead from their H.A.R.T.” at all times.

Today I was in the lunchroom wiping down a table that was left messy by a group of students who rushed off without cleaning.  It was frustrating, especially because we had just spent so much time talking about our responsibilities.  There I was, cleaning up a mess, feeling frustrated, when I was interrupted by a relatively quite…and very kind voice, leading from it’s H.A.R.T., “Mr. Berg, I can help you clean that up.”  The frustration lifted and was replaced with pride.  How cool.  The things we learn from these children, right?  The task was no longer difficult.  I no longer felt rushed.

As I finished the task and chatted about the week with this considerate young man, I thought about how important it is to remember that the challenges of our busy days can be diminished by kindness in communication.  So many people have reached out to me in kind ways over the past two weeks.  I need to follow their lead, making sure that in the mist of all of this busyness, I reach out in all directions with authenticity and with kindness.  Today, one of my students reminded me that it brings us together, makes our challenges seem less challenging, and enhances our days.

IMG_2719

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

 

 

 

Credibility In Leadership via Kouzes & Posner

The Truth About Leadership:  

The No-Fads, Heart-Of-The-Matter Facts You Need To Know

by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner

Chapter 2 Reflections

Seth E. Berg

Essential Learning:

Chapter Two of The Truth About Leadership cuts right to the point.  The foundation of the chapter is that credibility plays an essential role in effective leadership.  The chapter unfolds around the idea that believing in yourself is a great start, but that until others believe in you you’re not credible as a leader, and therefore not effective.  I appreciate that the authors go on to address the difference between being forced (or feeling forced) to follow and willingly following.  When people are so moved by credible leaders that they follow them “enthusiastically and voluntarily” organization tend to thrive.  Employees who believe in their organization’s leadership feel energized to contribute, they feel as though they have some stake in the outcomes they produce, and they are inspired to make incredible things happen.

Kousez and Posner point out that leadership is a relationship.  As with partners in any relationship, leaders are rightfully held to certain expectations.  Meeting those expectations is pivotal to the success of the relationship.  It is crucial that leaders are good for their word.  When credibility is diminished by consistent miscommunication and a lack of follow through, resentment and disillusion can mount.  Organizations suffer when their leaders are perceived to lack credibility.  Kousez and Posner conducted a pointed survey with tens of thousands of respondents identifying four primary characteristics that people admire in those who lead them.  According to the respondents, people want their leaders to be honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent.  Moreover, the authors contend that those are the characteristics of leaders who motivate people to work with passion and purpose.

Honesty is critical because people have to know that they can trust those who are setting the course.  Change is constant and can often times be intimidating.  Leaders must convey the clear message that they have “ethical principles and clear standards by which (they) live.”  Being honest is a holistic act.  Great leaders are honest with those that they serve and they are honest with themselves.  They understand their needs, their strengths, and their limitations.  They work and live with a deep knowledge of their own circumstances.  When they speak they truly subscribe to what they are saying.  Forward thinking leaders give people a sense that the future is positive and stable, those who inspire help people commit to that future while giving them reasons to feel comfortable in believing that it’s bright, and of course, competency produces confidence.  People especially admire leaders who have the competency to admit and articulate their challenges, and who are able to accept learning as an essential component of growth.

Finally, this chapter illuminates the indelible truth that great leadership is contagious.  Organizations that are well run and guided by people who are credible tend to be filled with credible leaders at all levels.  People in those types of organizations tend to expect credibility from one another regardless of the capacity in which they serve.  When the onus for being honest, forward-looking, credible, and inspiring comes from an effective leader who puts it on himself and lives it, those characteristics tend to spread, creating cultural norms that enhance his community and all of its stakeholders.

Highlights – Ten Quotes To Ruminate On:

1.  Leadership begins with you and your belief in yourself.  Leadership continues only if other people also believe in you.

2.  Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.

3.  In every relationship people have expectations of each other.

4.  Before anyone is willing to follow you – or any other leader – he or she wants to know that you are honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent.

5.  Being honest means telling the truth and having ethical principles and clear standards by which you live.

6.  (People) need to believe that you are worthy of your trust.

7.  To be honest with others also requires being honest with yourself and taking stock of what is truly important to you.

8.  You have to be candid with yourself about your strengths and limitations.

9.  If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.

10.  Do what you say you will do.

Application:

I have worked in many organizations.  For better or worse, leadership has set the tone in each and every one.  The values of those who lead seem to permeate throughout, especially when their actions match those values.  Most recently I have been extremely fortunate to work in two elementary school communities whose leadership is outstanding!  Both communities are lead by administrators who deeply value collaboration.  Both administrations support and encourage leadership at all levels.  It’s exciting and empowering to know that my input is essential to the wellbeing of the community I serve.  I know many teachers in both buildings who spend time and exert energy well beyond what is contractually required because they understand the critical part they play in fostering a healthy and productive learning environment.  The lived values of these incredible leaders makes that possible.  I’ve heard stories of schools whose leaders stifle teacher contributions by micromanaging with an eye on targeting the negative.  Instead, they should be focused on collaborating and highlighting positive development.  In my experience, leaders who overtly addressing challenges as boons for adaptation and pathways to success gain credibility and inspire others to achieve!

Learning 365: Perception Is Reality

Learning 365

(Critical Thinking About What The World Is Teaching Me Every Day)

#40 Perspective Is Reality

[Lesson Break Down]

Communication is beholden to perception.  In every communication there’s output and input.  The intentions of the one producing the output can easily be muddied by the perception of those processing the input.

_______________________________________________________

The other day I was playing with my three-year-old when naptime crept up on us.   Neither of us wanted to stop playing.  However, I knew that we would miss our nap window if we didn’t take a break and make the transition.  My son is just like Ian Falconer’s Olivia – he’s supposed to take a nap every day but when the time comes he’s “not at all tired.” Anyway, I told him that we could take five more minutes to play before we had to go upstairs.  Being the negotiator that he is, he countered with ten minutes.  I told him that I’d concede to seven.  That’s when it happened.  With pride and resolve he looked up at me and declared, “One!”  His three-year-old mind wasn’t taking the time to care that one minute is actually less than any of the other options we’d discussed.  He was simply determined to win the negotiation.  When I agreed to the one-minute extension he was thrilled.  He smiled an “I got you” kind of smile and continued to play.  One minute later I informed him that his time was up.  He gladly put his toys down and led me to his room where we read a few books before he happily snuggled in for a nap.

Later that day I saw the toddler perception machine at work again.  This time, my clever three-year-old was taking my enthusiastic one-year-old for a bit of a ride.  It was Lego time.  The bin had just been opened and the big guy was divvying up the pieces.  Here’s how it went, “One for you…three for me.”  The thing is, he said, “one for you,” with such enthusiasm it was almost as if he was giving the little guy a cookie each time he handed him his third of the Legos.  He was so excited to be getting what he perceived to be “big boy” treatment from his venerated older brother.  What a thrill!

The combination of these events has me thinking about the power of perception and how frequently it plays into the effects of communication in my personal and professional life.   That power seems to be important both when I’m communicating out and when I’m processing communication that I’ve received.  How frequently are my intentions lost by way of some seemingly unimportant communication misstep?  How often do I attach erroneous intentions to the messages I’m receiving from my colleagues or my loved ones?  What impact does perception-based miscommunication have on the development of relationships, productivity, organizational culture, achievement of goals, etc.?  I’ve brainstormed some scenarios in which perception might have been working against effective communication in my daily life so that I can think critically about enhancing my output and input on a go forward basis.  Here are 5 things to consider about digital communication – specifically with regard to e-mails:

1.  Taking for granted that someone is reading a digital message in exactly the way it was intended can be a mistake.

2. Likewise, making assumptions about potential negative intentions behind a confusing received digital message can lead to further confusion and potential problems.

3. Assuming positive intentions goes a long way when communicating digitally (or otherwise for that matter).

4.  Messages with no subject line or with the entire message in the subject line are easily confused.

5.  It’s nice when people personalize digital messages by including a greeting and signature line.  It really only takes a moment and I think it goes a long way.

365 Lessons: Think It, Say It, Do it.

365 Lessons

(Critical Thinking About What The World Is Teaching Me Every Day)

 #38 Think It Is Great, Saying It Is Wonderful, Doing It Makes It Happen

 [Lesson Break Down]

I have a lot of ideas.  I talk about some of them, write some of them down, and I explore some of them further than a fleeting thought.  The ones that turn into something, for better or worse, are the ones I act on.

_______________________________________________________

 I’m not getting any younger.  I’m certainly not accruing any extra free time.  However, I have some things that I’d like to do while I’m able.  Because life is fragile and relatively short I have no idea how long that will be.  I read a great quote today in a book called The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D.  Dr. Paul Samuelson, a Nobel Prize winning economist, said, “Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play.  This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.”  Not everyone wins a Nobel Prize for the work that he’s destine to do.  The bigger issue in my mind is that not everyone ends up doing that work.  I’m beginning to understand that it’s not necessary to be paid or even recognized for the work that I love to do.  Being a “Happy Warrior” is good enough.  Today’s lesson has me giving myself the following advice:  If I’m driven and passionate about exploring an idea that fits with my goals, abilities, and circumstances – I should act on it.