To Thine Ownself Be True

reflections

I spend a lot of time each week reflecting on what has gone well and what has gone not so well in our school, as I am sure a lot of you do.

I consider my actions and reactions, thinking about whether or not I need to make changes in my focus in order to support the growth of the school team.

Lately I have noticed a sense of urgency and almost robotic panic in our building seemingly based upon the number of things everyone is juggling. I hate to see people so tired and overwhelmed to the point of not enjoying what they do.  One thing I never doubt, not even for one minute, is each member of our team being focused on our students- always.

We can be bombarded with requirements, committees and changes coming at us from various directions outside and inside of the school.  It can be a difficult task to balance the expectations and requirements coming at us,  with what has to happen in our classrooms, with our students, and in our school, on a daily basis.

I know as an administrator I often feel overwhelmed by the number of things we are expected to balance and complete and spend a lot of time thinking of how to make that easier for teachers.  I don’t think we really stand out in the educational crowd with these feelings.  I also feel it is something that is not going away anytime soon.

On Thursday of this week, we had the opportunity to have the home town and much-loved, hockey team players from The Estevan Bruins,  spend the afternoon in our school.  There were 25 of them, spread out, working in every classroom for an hour and we ended the day with a floor hockey game in the gym involving as many students and staff as possible.  What a fun way to spend the day!

I am not going to lie, it was a bit of an over the top frenzy for the whole afternoon.  The students were so excited and it was nice to just take time to have a whole lot of fun together.

Estevan Bruins
Estevan Bruins

Looking back at that afternoon, I have wonder if that is what we are missing right now.   Do we give ourselves permission to  shut it all off occasionally and just have fun with each other without feeling guilty about it?

It seems like we can get so caught up with all of the expectations we are  balancing we can let those expectations control our actions, rather than us controlling how we will fulfill those expectations.  We have many things in our profession that we can’t control.  I am always trying to bring our conversations back to the things we can control and reminding myself about those things often to refocus.

For example, we can’t control parental actions and reactions.  We can promote, encourage and assist, but in the end we will always have some parents that do not support all of our actions.  Should we focus our energy on those few by allowing their negative feedback to control us?  Or does it make more sense to focus our energy on forging relationships with all of our supportive, eager to partner, parents and see what we can accomplish?

Now I would never say we should stop reaching out, encouraging and trying, but when they do not reach back, we should try not to take that personally and feel bad about it.  Our energy is better spent on ways that we can reach out to the majority and the benefit it will be to all of our students.

Another example…

Many expectations are put upon schools by different departments at the school division/district level.  The intent of all of them is  based on best practice, school division/ministry goals and improving the way we do things.  The desire to improve our practice is strong, and good intent is there,  but it can be overwhelming when there are too many changes.  Once again, however, are we concentrating and spending energy by becoming too focused on things we can’t control?

We do need to continue to improve our practice.  We do no need to continue to drill down our data. We do need to continue to improve team function so we can meet individual student needs and improve academic achievement.  No one can argue that.

At the same time, however, we do not need to lose our individuality in the process.

We can stay true to the good practice and routines we have developed and feel are important in our classrooms and schools.  We do not need to change who we are, what we are, or the things we feel are important to our school culture.

Let’s spend more of our energy supporting relationships, reaching out to each other to meet our goals, having fun with our students and families, enjoying reading and the love of learning, meeting in the staff room for a quick chat at recess rather than working alone, letting ourselves walk out at the end of the day and not looking back, rather than dragging home our laptops and book bags for a long night ahead.

flickr.com
flickr.com

The long list of expectations and things to do will keep coming.  Where we decide  to spend our energy and focus each day is up to us.  I have a feeling the expectations will be met much easier if we allow ourselves to be true to who we are and what we stand for.

Any thoughts?

“To thine own self be true.”  

              -William Shakespeare-

 

 

 

 

Getting off to a Positive Start

www.pixabay.com
http://www.pixabay.com

We are almost a month into the new school year and I am feeling motivated by many things.  I love the fresh start of the new year when everyone is rested and full of energy.  We can forget about our mistakes of last year, re-celebrate the successes and plan for a fantastic year ahead.

The first day of school when the students come back fresh faced and loaded down with new school supplies.  Smiles and hugs are shared.  Even our middle-year’s students have to admit they are at least a little bit glad to be back with their classmates and friends.  The fresh start allows so many to shine, while welcoming new students and adjusting to new teachers.  One of the favorite things I do at the beginning of each year is read to every group of students in the school.  I try to share my love of reading and choose my books to leave them with the message of working hard, not giving up and learning from our mistakes.

Grade 2
Grade 2

I have been lucky enough to spend the two days this month with our school division admin team listening and learning from Tom Hierck.  His message is clear- do as many positive things as possible to build up every student in our schools to reach their potential.  We do not give up on kids!

During these two days of learning and discussion we were able to think and share about all the ways we are being positive in our schools.  I think our staff does a great job of trying to meet the needs of all of our students and look for ways of celebrating their individual talents and abilities.  As I walk from classroom to classroom, I am amazed by the things I see happening on a daily basis. I know I am lucky to have such a dedicated, hardworking staff and our students benefit from that hard work.  I am proud of each and every one of them and wonder if I can ask them to do even more than they already are.

Another part of  Tom Hierck’s message was about  the need for collective buy in to what we feel is important in our schools.  It takes hard work to create and maintain  positive attitude and culture every day.  Are we doing everything we can to model those behaviors we would like to see in our students?  Are we taking the time to build relationships that create safe and engaging environments?  Are we reaching out to our parents in a positive way so they feel like they are an important and integral part of our learning team?

Last summer as I was reading and reflecting on the new school year I came across a post written about positive office referrals. I wish I had taken a better record of where the idea came from because I would like to thank the author of that post.

The principal who wrote the post was describing how much he enjoyed doing positive office referrals and how it had helped forge a positive relationship with students and parents.  Basically the idea was simple, teachers and support staff refer any student down to the office for any positive reason.  It might be academic, social, like being a good friend, helping out in the lunch room or in some cases something as simple as just getting to school on time.

Meeting students where they are, setting the bar high, but not too high and remembering one thing:  building positive relationships are the most important thing we do to make a difference in a students emotional, social and academic growth.

Once the school year starts, it seems to move along at lightening speed.  I hope we can slow down to catch those small moments where we can all make a positive difference in a students life, even those students who test us the most.

 

What I Learned in 2014

 

 

http://perkettprsuasion.com
http://perkettprsuasion.com

 

I started the school year in September kind of beat up and shell-shocked from a very stressful year that ended in June.  I had allowed the stress of the year to consume me and it took a toll on my enthusiasm, health and desire to do my job well.

Over the summer I spent my time healing, reflecting and coming up with a plan to approach the stresses of my job in a healthier way that did not consume my life.  I had to try not take things personally and concentrate on the things that we could control in our building rather than the negative feedback we were getting from a few parents and students.  My mantras for this school year that I try to remember are:

  • I can’t make everybody happy.
  • I can’t solve everyone’s problems.

Even though the mantras do not seem very positive, they have allowed me to realize my limits, to allow my, very capable, staff to do things without my control  and they have led me to a much happier school and home life, with a lot less stress.

I have mentioned many times , about my awesome, hardworking staff.  We have been able to create a team that works together and involves all 25 of us,  from our bus driver to our custodians.  We  started this year with a number of new staff and have learned to work together and appreciate each other’s strengths.

Our team has branched out this fall to not only include our staff and students, but we now have a number of parent volunteers helping us on a daily basis, especially with our school goal to improve our reading scores in the early years.  Parents and extended family are a valuable part of our team and when we all work together we truly can accomplish great things for and with our students.

The Christmas break has allowed me time to think about the fall and be grateful for the things we have been able to accomplish as a school team including our parents and community members.  Since I have become part of the administration @PDaleSchool I have been amazed at the generosity and support of our community.

January is a time of renewal and goal setting.

There have been many things I have learned this fall, but I have come up with 4 important things I have learned,  that I would like to continue to develop and practice.

1. Listen…

I have been guilty in the past of jumping to conclusions about situations before I have stopped to listen to what people are really saying to me.  I have been trying to keep my mouth closed until I have truly listened and considered the perspectives of others.   I have come to realize that although, I may not agree with what someone is saying to me or how they are saying it to me, the perspective of others is important.  Many times all I need to do for staff, students and parents is listen and take their concerns seriously.

I hope I can continue to develop my listening skills according to the wise words of Woodrow Wilson,

“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”

2.  Don’t judge what I do not know…

I have been frustrated many times as a teacher and principal, when I feel like we are being judged by a moment in time such as a quick walk through or one piece of data.

One quick snapshot rarely tells a story. 

One of my teachers reminded me of this early in the fall.  I realized that what I see as I am wandering around the building and spending time in classrooms are also snapshots and do not tell the whole story.  When I am having quick conversations with parents or I am privy to only one small part of family situations, I should not be judging on these snapshots.  Jumping to conclusions is never fair.

3. Lack of time is not an excuse…

I do not need to explain to anyone who is a teacher or who has spent time with a teacher the intense business and commitment that the job requires.  It is easy to be negative about change and growth, using lack of time as an excuse not to buy in.  I have realized the necessity of reflecting on how I am spending my time and whether or not it is really being used in the ways that will benefit, me, my family, my students and my staff.  If I do not have time for important things like people, professional growth, students needs, etc. then perhaps it is up to me to re-evaluate how I am spending my time.

4.  Tell our story…

Last year I read a book on digital leadership by fellow principal and leader Eric Sheninger.  One of the things he describes in his book, which I have written about before,  is school branding. Basically the idea stems around the importance of not leaving our school story up to someone else to tell.  If we do not tell our own positive story, we run the risk of allowing someone else to paint a picture that might not be as positive.  I have really tried to take this idea to heart and believe in the importance of it for the following reasons:

I need my teachers to be proud of the things they are doing every day with our students.

I need our parents to know what is happening every day with their children so they can be confident and assured we are helping them learn and grow on a daily basis.

I need my superintendent and other school division leaders to know that we are working hard to do what is right for our students and to support the school division goals. 

I need our community to know that what we are doing so they will continue to give us their support. 

As we start on the journey of the gift of another year, I hope that I can listen more,  judge less, accept challenges without the excuses and continue to tell our positive school story, because it is worth telling.

What do you hope to do in 2015?