My Moment – Day 19 – Sharing the Story

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Feels good to be home…even if it was for one day. 

Sandwiched in between the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute or #TXPVI and the Texas Computer Education Association Conference or #TCEA16 I returned home for one day on campus. Ever been on campus for two days, returned for one, before leaving for three more? That is the challenge I find myself in right now. 

Well knowing I had limited time on campus, I was in extreme “get it done” mode today. I answered emails, conferenced with staff members and teachers, sat in on parent meetings, returned phone calls, showed visiting teachers around our building discussing AVID, ate lunch with a student who had purchased the opportunity to do so from our school store, competed in a #mathfactchallenge with all of our @SiglerStars3rd grade students and just “caught up” with students and teachers I had not seen since Tuesday. I LOVE MY JOB! It was an awesome feeling to just go, go, go today. 

In the midst of my “get it done” mode, I happened to sit down at a table our parents use when they come and eat lunch with their children. (They eat with their children just outside the cafeteria.) It was no coincidence I sat down with this particular parent, as earlier in the week her daughter, a former Sigler student, had come back from middle school with her teacher and friends, to share their experiences with our 3rd-5th grade students about middle school and AVID. I wanted to share how proud I was of her daughter, which somehow led to a conversation about when her son would be able to eat lunch with me. We have a couple different ways students can eat lunch with the principal, which this mom was aware of and which her son, who was sitting with her was aware of as well. He had yet to have the opportunity, and as a 4th grader he felt as if he was running out of time. I pulled up a chair and continued to talk with him and his mom about all things Sigler. We talked about her younger children, my son, July birthdays, September birthdays and how I was retained in Kindergarten. (Another story for another day) 

As I was about to leave, mom shared her thoughts about our campus activity on social media. What mom did not know was that I am finalizing a presentation for #TCEA16 titled “Connecting Your Campus & Community Using Social Media”. She was sharing the exact message I wanted my audience to hear next week. I completely interrupted her and asked if I could record her sharing why she loved our social media presence. She said of course and now I have an awesome video testimony to share with my attendees next week at #TCEA16. It was perfect. The funny thing is, if I had not taken the #moment to sit down and speak with her, I would have never known what she was thinking. I would not have had the opportunity to listen and I would not have been able to eat lunch with her and her son. I would have completely missed my moment. 

The moral of the story…we all go through seasons of being off campus and I am in the midst of that right now. It does not matter if you only have a day or an hour, take the time to listen to your people…teachers, parents, students and staff. They all have a story and sometimes, if we find the right moment, the story they share will help the story we are trying to deliver. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 18 – Take the Stairs – Part II

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Yesterday I shared the epiphany I had while waiting for the elevator; Take the Stairs. I went on sharing the parallels I believe exist with taking the stairs and taking risks in education. At the time of writing yesterday’s post, little did I know I would be returning, to do a “part II”, but that is the beauty in this semester long blog series. I never know what my moment is going to be until it happens and sometimes the moment happens when you least expect it. That is what happened today. 

If you are following along with my daily posts, you know I am in Austin attending the Texas Principal’s

Visioning Institute or #TXPVI. In our final day of session 4, we spent the last half of the morning walking the streets of Austin, specifically looking for leadership. As I took to the streets with my team, it became increasingly obvious that when you are specifically looking for something you can find it. My team and I found examples of leadership up and down the streets of Austin. One image I captured was of two maintenance men using a lift to do some work on the side of a building. While the act of using a lift does not necessarily scream leadership, watching it lift higher and higher in the air reminded me of leadership. “Great leadership allows us to elevate those around us.” We collected other examples and reported back to our large group and shared out several of the examples we found. Overall, a very inspirational activity, reminding us that leadership can be found in all shapes and sizes as long as we are looking for it. 

As we transitioned for lunch, I found myself in the same situation of waiting for an elevator, but today, without hesitation, I knew I was going to take the stairs. I recruited my buddy @conradstreeter to climb with me. Today it was 17 flights, as we returned to the 18th floor, home of the best views in Austin. 

Help is on the way.

Little did Conrad and I know, as we were climbing what seemed to be a never ending set of stairs, our colleagues were on an elevator that had stopped operating properly and were completely stuck. Have you ever been stuck? Maybe not on an elevator, but just stuck? I have. I believe we can all get stuck from time to time, whether it is in our practice or in our thinking. How do you conduct yourself as the leader in that moment? The moment you realize you are stuck. The important aspect of being stuck is can you get unstuck? Do you surround yourself with folks who will help you get unstuck? Do you have a practice in place that allows you to reflect? Do you allow yourself to take risks that will ensure you do not get stuck? 

Photo Compliments of @BunchO

After thirty minutes or what I am sure seemed to be an eternity for those who were stuck in the elevator, they were safe and sound and unstuck. As they entered the room, we gave them all a standing ovation and recognized them for the leadership they exhibited while they were stuck and embraced the idea that sometimes, in order to get unstuck, we need the help and support of others. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 17 – Take the Stairs

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I am in Austin, TX this week, catching the tail end of #TASA16 and for my fourth session with the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute or #TXPVI. The folks from @N2Learning take great care of us and today we had lunch a top the Hilton Garden Inn on the 18th floor. Otherwise known as the “Best View in Austin”. (That could be a point to argue, but that is not what my moment is about.) As lunch was wrapping up, we headed back down to the mezzanine area to listen to a superintendent panel that started promptly at 12:30PM, because we know how busy superintendents are and we wanted to be respectful of their time. (seriously…they did an awesome job)

As the fifty or so principals started making their way to the elevator, I quickly realized, this was going to take a few minutes. One group got on and then another and then another, but I was still waiting in line. While I was waiting, I had an epiphany…I can take the stairs. I was on the 18th floor, needing to get to the 11th. It was not like I was descending 50 floors…just 7. As I searched for the stairs, one other principal came with me and we decided to take the stairs together. 

Boom! Just like that, I had found my moment for the day. How often, in the world of education, do I take the stairs? Do I wait in line, sticking with the herd (in this case, taking the elevator) or do I take a risk and find another way to do it (taking the stairs)?

Often times risk taking needs company. It is hard to “take the stairs” all by yourself. I have never been one to shy away from doing things differently or venturing out on my own, but today, just my willingness to do it differently, encouraged someone else to do it differently with me. By having another person in the stair case with me, it provided affirmation that it was not a totally bad idea. I had someone supporting my risk.

Risk taking in education is easy to talk about and much harder to do. I could list a million and ten reasons why it would be easier to wait in line for the elevator, but listen…been there, done that. The whole essence of #TXPVI is about transformation and doing things differently. I will continue to embrace this ideology and seek out ways to improve, ways I can embrace risk taking, and surround myself with folks who will take risks with me, while maintaining the courage to take the first step when necessary.

Thank you for the #moment #TXPVI  for reminding me to “take the stairs”.

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 16 – Be Kind

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Familiar with the Kind Campaign? We had the opportunity to have the @kindcampaign come and visit our female students in 3rd and 4th grade this past fall. If you are not familiar, check out their webpage: and then see what you can do about bringing the message to your campus. As I shared, last fall, we had the opportunity to expose our girls to the message behind the kind campaign and the motto “You Can Sit With Us”. In the moment, you hope it is impactful, but ultimately, you do not know how impactful. It’s the results over time and how well we do as adults in keeping the message alive in our students, that truly measure the impact. 

Every other month, I host a Self-Manager Party, honoring students who have earned a particular badge level within our campus wide system. Each party we get together and host a “project” or a focus that supports being kind. 

Our first gathering, shortly after the Kind Campaign Assembly, students worked together to create buttons with the message, “You Can Sit With Us” and served as ambassadors of our Kind Campaign at Sigler Elementary.  I still see buttons pinned on backpacks, binders & lanyards reminding students about the power behind being kind. 

Before the holidays we had another Self Manager Party, celebrating the spirit of kindness. Students wrote kind messages to teachers across the building and handed out “kind canes” not candy canes, to teachers who have been making a difference in their lives. I was humbled by the excitement students demonstrated in simply writing a positive note of thanks to a teacher/s who they appreciate. 

Both of those activities were powerful displays of students being kind and kept the momentum going in regards to the work we had started earlier in the semester, but both were products of adult ideas, impressed upon students. Would the students take ownership of this idea? 

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been receiving mentions on Twitter from teachers on our 3rd grade team, indicating a group of girls were continuing the conversation, on their time, led by students, with zero teacher involvement. I was intrigued. Last week, two of these young ladies approached me, interested in talking with me about their ideas. Unfortunately, I was not able to speak with them in the moment, but I was able to schedule a time to speak with them today. 

While I was looking forward to this date on my calendar, they were not only looking forward to it, but growing their support and planning how they would spend their time with me during our meeting. According to their teachers, this group of ladies spend their recess planning their acts of kindness, recruiting students to join the cause and brainstorming how their acts of kindness can positively impact others. They meet at the same spot on the playground, at the same time, every day. You can see…they were ready for our meeting today. 

While I was expecting to meet with a team of two or three 3rd grade students, I walked into the conference room surrounded by a much larger team. These young ladies, had an agenda, scripted notes and the dream of spreading kindness not only throughout our campus, but throughout the world. 

We had an amazing conversation in which they shared their goals and I shared what they need to think about in order to take the next step. These ladies are on to something. The world can use more kindness and so can the students at Sigler Elementary. Can there ever be enough? I am excited to see where this group of girls takes their dreams and I am excited to see how it positively impacts the Sigler Community. I am proud of each of them and proudly express my membership in the Kind Campaign for Boys and Girls at Sigler Elementary. (This is what the girls called the group today. The name may change over time, but the cause remains the same… Be Kind.) 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 15 – White Space

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

My calendar over the next two weeks is busy. Yes, I know, you are busy too. When I say my calendar is busy, I mean, I will only be on campus for four out of the next ten school days. To be honest, it is really three and a half, as I was off campus this morning as well. I won’t go into why I was off campus this morning, (STAAR Training) but at the end of the four hour training, I had every reason to go back to campus, well knowing I would not be on campus much over the course of the next two weeks, but I did not. You see, I was at this training with some of our teachers and when one of our teachers asked, “Where are we going to eat lunch?” I knew the right thing to do. I was going to lunch. Some may say that was me not prioritizing the work. Some may say that was me not putting an emphasis on my job. You’re entitled to that. I kindly disagree. I call it relationship building. My #leaduptribe and I call it “white space”. 

How often do you get the opportunity to spend time with members of your staff off campus, away from the work? Not often. How often do you get to sit down and eat lunch and talk with your teachers about the name they picked out for their baby girl that will be born in just over a month? How often do you get to sit down with your teachers and talk about the renovation project they will be completing over spring break? I have those conversations around the building, but getting to have the deeper conversation off campus, away from the work, that is taking advantage of the moment, that is taking advantage of the “white space”. 

When was the last time you were able to take advantage of the “white space”?

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 14 – No Matter What

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I walk up and down the halls of Sigler Elementary often, going to and from, talking with students and teachers, doing walkthroughs and delivering messages, but today I found myself walking up and down the hallway, just listening. As I walked down the hallway with no other purpose than to listen, soaking up the sounds of teachers teaching and students learning, I walked past a teacher who had stepped outside her classroom to speak with a student in the hallway. As I walked closer, I could not see who the student was, but I could clearly see the teacher. As I got closer, I started noticing the teachers body language; bent down, looking the student in the eyes and leaning in, towards the student ever so slightly. It was obvious, this conversation had nothing to do with behavior. It was a conversation between a teacher and a student about something so much more. I wondered what could be going on, what could they be talking about, and then as I passed by, purposefully keeping myself out of their conversation, I heard it. I heard a phrase that every student should hear from their teacher. A phrase that proves #relationshipsmatter. As I passed by, I heard the teacher tell this student, “No matter what, I want you to know, you can always tell me anything.” 

This teacher gets it. This teacher stopped her instruction to remind this student that #relationshipsmatter. She has a connection with this student. A relationship that goes beyond teacher and student. The student trusts her. 

The demands of public education are higher than ever, but never forget “students do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 13 – It Takes a Spark

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

According to Albert Einstein, insanity is the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different results.

Ever feel like you are insane? Education as a whole likes to make things sound different, dress them up in fancy acronyms or alter an instructional approach to make it seem better, but at the end of the day, the approach we take is still exactly the same.  As my #leaduptribe mate Neil Gupta would say, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.”

I wrote in Day 8 that I was ready for a change and asked the question, “Who is Coming with Me?” I continue to have conversations on campus about what exactly this transformation will look like and what I am discovering is more folks may be ready than I expected. 

Today, I was able to sit down and have a conversation with a staff member about where we may be heading. We talked about PBL, we talked about the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute and we talked about Alan November and his book, Who Own’s the Learning. At the end of the day, we both agree that our students need to own their learning. We want students to embrace opportunities. We want them to wonder, ask questions and be curious. We want all those things, but do we allow them to happen? I recalled a guided reading lesson I was able to sit in on earlier in the day in Kindergarten. I could not help but notice the excitement these five and six year olds had. They were excited to read and they were excited to learn. They wondered. They made connections. They asked questions. It was amazing to sit back and observe how happy they were. Where does that go? What do we do to students to make that go away? As the teacher and I continued to talk about what this transformation would look like, I was reminded about the barriers that may exist. Who may or may not be ready for change? How will this change impact students on state testing? How will we roll this out? What will the expectations be? Each of the points raised were valid questions. My #leaduptribe would refer to these questions as “friction”. Do not be mistaken. Friction can be a good thing…in fact, a great thing. The “friction” allows for leaders to see all angles; consider all options and work through these potential obstacles before they become barriers to change. 

As my time with this staff member came to a close, I was fired up. I get very excited thinking about what education “could be”. My moment came when I received an email later in the day from the staff member who I had spent time with. 

“I also believe that we cannot continue to do exactly what has been done in the past if we want different results.  I really believe that when we take the time to reflect, research, learn new things, and share successes, we will find the right balance.”

I am not naive. I know change is hard. I know it does not happen in an instant and I know you cannot turn your back everything you know, to just “try something new”. With the mindset captured in the statement above, I am reminded of the quote, “It only takes the smallest spark to ignite the fire inside of us. Then everything becomes possible.” 

Here’s is to celebrating the #moment when everything becomes possible. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 12 – I Need…

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I love doing observations. It does not matter if it is a walk-through, a formal observation or just sitting in the back of the room, I love doing observations. I love seeing the students interact with one another. I love seeing the students perseverance as they overcome, solving a difficult word problem and I love the excite students demonstrate when they reach success. I love doing observations. 

I was able to complete a formal observation today, after returning to campus following a morning of principal updates. As a settled in with my laptop, ready to document the next forty-five minutes, I was able to witness the following exchange between a teacher and student: 

(In order to set the stage, the teacher and student were playing with a classic wooden train set, piecing together the tracks for the train to travel on. The teacher purposefully kept a few of the pieces off to the side, because the true purpose behind playing with the trains was providing the student with the opportunity to respond to the question, “What do you need…” with the response, “I need…”)

Teacher: “What piece do you need next?”
Student: “I need that piece. (pointing to the piece he needed)”

Teacher: “Great job using, I need. What do you need next? Do you see the pieces I have over here? Do you need these pieces?”
Student: …
After wait time
Teacher: “Do you need one of the pieces I have over here?”
Student: …
After wait time
Teacher: “I have a piece you may need. Do you need any more pieces?”
Student: “I need…to go to the bathroom.”
We all burst out in laughter, clearly not expecting that particular “I need” statement as the student exited the room, to use the bathroom. 
The brief #moment of laughter, reminded me of the power of laughter. The brief moment we spent laughing, allowed everyone in the room to forget about everything else and just enjoy the #moment. 
How often do we get caught up in the day to day and forget to stop and smile or stop and laugh. Smiling and laughing brings joy to our lives and the lives around us. 
What was your #moment today? 

My Moment – Day 11

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

It is the middle of the school year. I am a principal at a bilingual campus. Those two combinations mean I have the privilege of sitting down with our Language Proficiency Assessment Committee (LPAC) to discuss the progress of our limited English proficient students (LEP). Our committee does a great job of highlighting strengths and non-strengths of our students and teachers masterfully make instructional adjustments to meet the varied needs of LEP students within their classrooms. 

We held our LPAC meetings today for students in grades 3rd-5th, but by the time we concluded, signed off on all the necessary documents and grabbed a bite to eat (and by eat I mean have three conversations with food in my mouth) most of the day had already passed. I had not gotten much of a chance to see or speak with many of our students or teachers. I was still searching for my #moment. 

Dismissal time came and while I do my best to be present in the front of the building during carpool, I have yet to find a way to be there and in the back of the building where our buses dismiss. Today I made the decision to check out the back of the building. On my way to the back of the building to wave good-bye as the buses pulled away, I figured I could do one better and just ride the bus. So I did! 

Students looked excited, right? (My appreciation for our bus drivers multiplied during my 10 minutes on the bus) What you do not see in this picture is the young man sitting next to me. The young man who was having a bad day. The young man who needed the principal to sit next to him. The young man who needed the principal to sit next time him, not because he could not sit by himself, because he needed someone to listen to him. He had just completed what we would all consider to be a “rough day”. He had done his personal best to hold it together all day, but by the end of it, he just couldn’t hold it together any longer and made some decisions, well…let’s just say it was “not his best”. 
What was supposed to be just an innocent bus ride for me, turned into an opportunity to have a #moment. This young man and I were able to spend a little time together. He needed it and so did I. I hadn’t been able to really see or speak to many of our students today, but I found myself right where I needed to be, without knowing I needed to be there. (Amazing how that can happen if you are present and visible as a campus leader.)
As we exited the bus, the young man, who I was able to spend a little time with found his brother and headed towards their father. (It is always fun to the see the faces of the students when the principal gets on the bus, but if you think those faces are great, wait until you see the faces of the parents, who are waiting at the bus stop, when the principal is the first person off the bus.) I was able to speak with dad, who was very interested in knowing how his son’s day went and I know they were able to spend some quality father/son time this evening. 
During a day, in which I was searching for my #moment, I realized, sometimes the #moment finds you. 
What was your #moment today? 

My Moment – Day 10 #NoOfficeDay

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Over the summer months I fill up my Friday’s, scheduling #NoOfficeDays with each of my grade levels and departments. I have been looking forward to this Friday for a while. Today I was able to spend the day with our 2nd grade teachers and students enjoying a #NoOfficeDay.  

If you want to see all the images from my #NoOfficeDay, check out the hashtags #siglerlearns & #NoOfficeDay. You can also check out the tweets from @SiglerStars

Starting at 8:00AM, my day was full of #moments, right up until 2:45PM when students were dismissed to go home. We created alliterations, found clues authors share in their writing to help draw conclusions, studied chemical engineering (yes, in 2nd grade), played basketball, football and hockey and enjoyed lunch together in the cafeteria. I get worn out all over again just thinking about it. Teachers have a great gig! Teachers have a hard gig!

(If you are an administrator, spend a full day walking in the shoes of your teachers. If you are a teacher, encourage your administrator to spend a day walking in your shoes. It renews my appreciation for what teachers do each time.)

There are three #moments or what Steven Weber (@curriculumblog) would refer to as “tweetable moments” that I want to highlight below.

It was the first classroom I walked into today. Students were researching historic landmarks, finishing up a social studies unit they had been working on. Working together in collaborative groups, students located information on the web to draft a short commercial for the landmark they had researched. Students used a search engine you may be familiar with, but I was not. Have you heard of Google Junior? If you have, why didn’t you share with me? If you haven’t, be sure to check it out. In order for students to demonstrate their learning, they recorded themselves using the app “Do Ink” with a homemade green screen, that worked beautifully. So impressed! Students were standing right in front of their landmarks, sharing information that would lead us all to want to visit the historic sites.

My second “tweetable moment” (in all honesty, I tweeted them all, but I am just highlighting a few) was the math class I walked into where students were working on stations/centers. In a typical classroom during station time, you would see students at the teacher table, students working independently on some type of worksheet and then just a handful of students using technology. Not the case in this classroom. This teacher has worked hard to collect enough devices, to support “paperless stations”. Students in this classroom have come to understand they can learn using laptops and wireless devices. Today, they were able to demonstrate their understanding of money using a variety of apps and online tools. While students in grades 3rd-5th have Think Through Math in Texas as a resource, this teacher has found something similar for her students… Splashmath. Well done. Total engagement and learning for all students.

Then, possibly the most impressive #moment ever, occured in art class and I am not talking about anything I drew, painted or designed. The art teacher was supporting students in a lesson that embraced the Chinese New Year. As the activity progressed, students were looking at a variety of Chinese symbols that represented different English words. The teacher just happened to ask if the students knew anyone who spoke Chinese. All of a sudden, this happened…

WHAT? You speak Chinese? She is not fluent, but she knows enough to ask for an apple. You think I was impressed? You should have seen the faces of the students that were in the art studio with me. Who knew! It just goes to show us all what students are capable of if we give them the opportunity. 
It was a day full of amazing #moments and I take my hat off to all of our 2nd grade teachers. 
What was your #moment today?