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Lean In

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We also need to keep in mind that schools serve a need other than learning.

Peter DeWitt

If we truly believe this do our actions reflect this belief? Or like a bumper sticker, is this one of those mantras that we claim is important to us, yet always remains in the rear?

I do not know the answer to these questions, but I do know that in our attempt to make our schools a better place, we have become so focused on the what that we have begun to neglect the who.

And while the what is important, it should never take precedence over the who. We always keep our Standards and our Lesson Plans and our Technology and our Evaluation Tools and our Checklists within arm’s reach. But in so doing we leave no space to embrace something much more important: the people that we are trying to positively impact.

We have forgotten how to be close.

We have stopped leaning in. Figuratively and literally.

And in our effort to better connect, we are not connecting.

We can communicate with our students via Skype, Google Hangouts, Voxer, etc. But when we interact with students are we doing so in a way that brings us closer together or farther apart? When we sit down with students are we sitting next to them, close to them, with them? Or are we behind our desk taking notes and checking our email? Are we holding their hands, giving them hugs and providing them the closeness they need? Or are we pushing them away with our talk of grades and tests scores and report cards?

Lean in!

Are most of our interactions with staff about instruction and data and teaching? Or are they about family and friends and life? Do we actually take the time to sit down and talk, or more importantly, listen? One minute of undivided attention is more valuable than five pages of feedback. We can spend hours crafting evaluations that we think will have enormous impact. But if we haven’t first established the connection with that person, then our words will not have the resonance we intended.

Lean in!


Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in life.


Brian Andreas

When we meet with parents are we telling them about their child or are we trying to learn more about their child? Do we make them feel welcome and comfortable or do we use jargon and sit in judgment? Parents can sense within thirty seconds what we are all about.

Do we keep our distance because we are afraid? Do we pack the room in an attempt to help us feel safer? Or do we sit face to face in a close setting and truly listen? If we truly want to build the relationship and the trust, then we must get closer. And this is not easy. And this can be uncomfortable. But it works! We must always remember that if a parent does not trust us then neither does their child.


If you don't like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over in your lap and you won't mind.


Irving Becker

We must not ever forget that school is what we do, but it is not who we are. In our attempt to better connect we have forgotten how to connect. These connections don’t require a budget and they don’t require a plan. We don’t need to assemble a committee and there is no need to collect any data.

There is one and only one way that we can start to make these connections that are so crucial.

We must start to lean in.


* My thoughts above were inspired by Peter DeWitt’s piece Reimagining Schools: What Does That Mean? that he published on his blog, Finding Common Ground. Sometimes I think that I am only replanting seeds that have already been fertilized by my PLN. But I am 100% cool with that because I believe we learn and grow together.




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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

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Guest Friday, 22 March 2019