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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I recently prepared introductory remarks for our winter concert.  I used the same Microsoft Word document named “concert introductions” that I’ve used since I became a principal.  There are elements of these introductions that need to be repeated every year:  turn off your cell phone, don’t yell out your kids name, stay until the end of the concert, thanks to our dignitaries for attending.  So I cut and paste the previous year’s speech and then make revisions.   

Despite the “canned reminders” noted above, I always make different remarks as part of my introductions for a concert.  At this event I referenced a study done by the renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks about the effects on the brain that learning to play a musical instrument has.  Did you know that Duke Ellington’s brain looked completely different than Albert Einstein’s, but that Einstein’s brain probably looked mostly like yours and mine?  People who play a musical instrument have brains that are physically different than those who do not play.   My mentor taught me that any time you address a large gathering of people in your role as principal it is an opportunity to reinforce the vision and mission of the school.  This reference to Sacks’s research allowed me to remind the audience that everything we do at our school is about LEARNING.

Because there’s no podium in front of the stage, and it’s often dark, I make sure my remarks do not exceed a single page with large font.   When I pressed the button to print the speech, I made the mistake of not selecting the particular page that had my remarks for “Winter Concert 2017”.   Over 60 pages began streaming out of my printer.  That’s how many concert introductions I’ve done since I became principal.  I am in my 12th year as principal at my present school.  Add to that the five years I was principal at another school, that’s a lot of concerts.   

If you’re going to have a single job for a long time, the two jobs you would do well to consider are classroom teacher and middle school school principal.  Both of these are dynamic roles that are constantly challenging, you can never be bored.  The jobs of the principal or the teacher are wildly unpredictable.  It’s important to have a plan but don’t expect that you’ll be able to follow it. Because of the chaotic dynamism of these roles, there’s a tendency for some people to cling to consistency.   If it went okay last year, let’s just do it the same way again this year,  “Here comes Parent Teacher Conferences, Meet the Teacher Night, Graduation, or a Concert again, let’s trot out the same plan from last year.”   I call this attitude, “Good enough is good enough”.  I wrote about this in a previous post, and it’s not okay. 

Good enough is simply not good enough.  Despite how long we may have been doing our jobs, complacency will not help us to improve.   With the new year approaching, like many people, I have sought the one word that will represent my intention to grow.  I am committed to looking at every single thing I do with the purpose of improving and getting better.  To do this, I am going to focus on an important factor.   My one word resolution for the 2018 year is Feedback.  We cannot grow unless we hold up the mirror to our personal and professional practice.   

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

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Most people in leadership positions I encounter are not leaders. They are managers. This is not to say they are bad at their job. Some are in fact quite good. Problem is that while they help sh*t run well, they don’t grow. They don’t grow themselves and they don’t grow their organization.

I’ve experienced this a lot as a public school teacher. Many principals, assistant principals, and school district level administrators focus on efficiency and productivity while talking about improvement. They fail to recognize that as leaders, their main focus should always be on constant improvement. Don’t get me wrong; they all talk about it. Few however, actually live the principle of growing themselves, the people they are meant to lead, and their organization.

So how do you become a leader? How do you ensure you grow as a result of your interactions with those you lead and how do you in turn help those around you grow?

welcome disagreement

This one’s hard, because it’s in our nature to get defensive when our views or decisions are challenged. Remember fight or flight? Defensiveness is one of the side effects.

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Posted by on in Professional Development

rainy weather by kadeddy d5jbciy

I woke up today to cloudy, rainy weather.  While this is not necessarily unusual in the Pacific Northwest, it isn't the norm during the Summer months. The cool, crisp morning forced me to realize that summer is coming to a close.  Luckily, for me, the next school year doesn't officially start until after Labor Day, but I know some students in some states are already back in the classroom, and thousands are preparing for the journies that are awaiting them. 

Regardless if students will be pounding on the door tomorrow, next week, or next month, a majority of teachers are constantly thinking of the new school year. For some, they will be entering the profession for the first time. For others, they will be embracing a new content area, grade level, school, or district position.  And for others, they are inching toward retirement. Each teacher is vital to our educational system, and each teacher needs adequate support.  It is easy to feel isolated.  It is easy to feel restrained by a mindset or a building culture. It is also easy to seek new perspectives.  And, it is easy to educate oneself on current topics and practices.  

As the school year approaches, my renewal notices for professional memberships are appearing in my inbox and my mailbox. As teachers seek to meet the demands of schools, districts, states, they can feel mounted pressure and a level of discouragement can creep into their mindsets as they continue to move through their teaching careers. The level of support in the professional world for educators is something that teachers should be aware of and take advantage of. Educators can search for organizations via the internet, peruse educational pamphlets or newsletters in their school mailboxes, join edchats on Twitter, or talk to colleagues about resources to support their educational interests.  

I have found value in joining professional organizations as a way to network, learn, communicate, and receive support from educational experts and colleagues.  In my conversations with educators, only half are members of professional organizations, and the other half are consistently looking for ways to receive more education and more support. As the school year approaches, I challenge educators, or future educators, to find one educational organization to join. I also challenge educators to embrace the organization and interact with the resources of the organization.  This may entail reading journal articles the organization publishes, participating in a webinar, engaging in a Twitter conversation, or joining a special interest group.  I know educators often feel the pinch of time, but if they can take a few minutes each week, their professional learning will blossom, and the level of support they feel will grow exponentially. 

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Posted by on in Leadership

Createyourreality.jpg

This is the third post in the Universal Truth Series. Please check out Universal Truth: Everyone Has At Least One Superpower and Universal Truth: We All Have The Power To Change The World if you enjoy reflections on simple but powerful existential truths.

Reality is what we make it...

Whether you're a teacher, administrator, student, CEO or a working stiff you can level up and become a superhero at what you do. One crucial step you must take to achieve this is that you must realize and accept that our reactions, all of our reactions, are a result of how our mind processes the information it receives.

We all act on thoughts rather than on things that are actually happening. For example, if someone insults you by saying less than admirable things about you you might get angry about it.

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Byte

Do you know what a yottabyte is?

No, it’s not a nip on the knee from a beloved Star Wars character. It’s a measurement of digital information. And one I never dreamed would ever be necessary. When we purchased our first home computer in 1987, we upgraded from 10 to 20 megabytes, because we were convinced that was all we’d ever need.

But now, the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast for 2015 uses the word zettabyte when discussing the amount of digital information in our connected world. Cisco reports that “IP traffic will reach an annual rate of 2.0 zettabytes by 2019.” Zettabytes? Hang in there, I can explain. It takes 1,000,000 gigabytes to equal an Exabyte, and 1,000 exabytes to equal a zettabyte. How much longer will it take us to reach the next level: 1,000 zettabytes, which equal a yottabyte.

A yottabyte, to put things in perspective, equals about 250 trillion DVDs of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

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