Finish Your Race

I read an article this morning about a runner by the name of Georgene Johnson. On May 21, 1990 she stepped up to the starting line and at the sound of the starting gun took off for what she thought was a 10K or 6.2 miles. At mile 4 she realized that she had stepped up to the wrong starting line. Cleveland had two races starting at the same time on this day in May. One was the 10K she thought she was running and the other was a marathon or 26.2 miles. 
While it would have been easy for her to quit the race, realizing she had never run father than 10 miles (and she debated for a moment…even asked a police officer for a ride) however, she made the decision to finish the race. In her mind, it was as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Yes, she finished the marathon. 
We all started this race (or school year) back in August, knowing what we signed up for. While the finish line seemed so far away then, we are just two short weeks from crossing that line, wrapping up our school year. If Georgene Johnson can make the decision to finish a marathon that she didn’t train for and had no idea she was running until she was nearly a 1/4 of the way through it, we can knock out these last two weeks. We signed up for this race. Yes, it would be easy to walk the final miles or stop teaching over the final days, but who finds greatness by taking the easy route? 
I believe that is what sets the staff at Sigler Elementary apart from others. While teachers in some buildings will be taking down wall decor, packing up rooms and beginning to walk the final miles, I know this staff is better than that. Our students deserve better than that and as a staff we are going to #finishstrong and teach to the #finalbell. 
I challenge you to embrace the spirit of Georgene Johnson and finish the race. 

“Giving up is easy. Teaching students and giving them all you have to offer until the #finalbell is what they deserve.”

Putting a Price Tag on Fundraising

Imagine if you will, an elementary school engaging its families in an amazing fundraiser that brings families together, promotes health and wellness and as most fundraisers do…raises a ton of money to support initiatives, programs and brings unique experiences and opportunities to the students, teachers and families within the school. It sounds a lot like my campus, minus the “raises a ton of money” part.

The struggle is real. Fundraising at a Title I campus can be difficult. While we do our best to find ideas that will appeal to our community, at the end of the day, there are not a lot of extra dollars to be spent or donated to the school or PTA, because frankly, the money our families have is being spent on what it should be spent on. It is being spent on the necessities. Families are spending their money in an effort to provide for their families. Who am I to ask them to spend it differently?

Often, I gather with other principals from Title I schools in our district and we discuss innovative ways we are making things work within our building. A couple of weeks ago, the idea of fundraising came up and one particular campus shared the success they had been having with a fundraiser called “Penny Wars”. I was not familiar with this particular idea, but if it was working for them, I was all ears. Want to know how “Penny Wars” works? Click here for more information: “Penny Wars”

After listening to the format of “Penny Wars” I was sold. I immediately returned to campus and shared this idea with our PTA President and before the day was out, we had our next fundraiser.

Yesterday was our first day of “Penny Wars” at Sigler Elementary. I am not sure how you measure the success of a fundraiser, but for me, as the principal at Sigler Elementary, the following three points are important to me.

1. It’s a family affair – I want our fundraisers to be something the whole family can get in on. Now, I do not mean the whole family goes walking throughout the neighborhood, ringing door bells and selling items. I mean the fundraiser is something the whole family can participate in. “Penny Wars” checks that box. In just two days, I have seen moms, dads and siblings coming together to collect their pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

2. Student excitement – Each morning as students enter the school building, they flock to our “Penny Wars” table to see which grade level has made the biggest contribution or to make a contribution themselves. Students need to have school spirit and when they are in the building having to be reminded to go to class numerous times because they just cannot pull themselves away from “Penny Wars” I believe we have captured their excitement. (Imagine if schools could capture the same level of excitement for learning in the classrooms…another post perhaps.)

// Maybe their excitement is due to this amazing trophy that travels from grade level to grade level recognizing the “Penny Wars” champion of the day.

3. Purpose – Often times schools and PTAs host fundraisers because it is what they have always done and the money goes into the same “fund” it always has and no one really knows what the money will be spent on. While we say the money goes towards supporting the Sigler PTA and brings programs and opportunities to students and families…we are being truthful, but it is vague at best. This time around we have a goal. Our Sigler PTA and Sigler Elementary would love to have a digital marquee. While many schools have made the transition from the older marquees to digital marquees, the marquee at Sigler still requires an individual to manually update messages one letter tile at a time, limiting the message to English on one side and Spanish on the other. It is our hope that our clear vision will encourage families to participate not only in this fundraiser, but in future fundraisers as well.

You are probably wondering, he did not list “Raise Money” as one of his points. Well, you are right. Of course, I want our fundraisers to earn money. We are not going to raise $30,000 doing a fundraiser at Sigler Elementary. We just are not. While, I do want our fundraisers to earn money, I want the points listed above just as much.

Two days into “Penny Wars” I am pleasantly surprised by the family involvement and student excitement I am witnessing. Yes, I’m excited about the money raised thus far, but we are just getting started. Let’s see how “Penny Wars” progresses over the next several days. If the momentum continues, we will be that much closer to our goal, our purpose which is bring a new marquee to Sigler Elementary. Yes, we will purchase it with money, but it will have been earned through the involvement of our families and the excitement of our students…no way you can put a price tag on that!

What was your moment today?

This Milestone Makes Me Nervous

As a father, there are specific milestones I know will happen in my son’s life. We have already enjoyed and captured so many; Cooper’s first steps, his first word, his first tooth, the first time he slept in a big boy bed, conquering potty training, starting pre-school and his first time on an airplane. The list could go on and on. We are very blessed to enjoy so many moments and with the technology available to us, capture each of them as they are happening. If you would have asked me a few months ago, what the next milestone would have been, I would have answered safely, we have one more year of pre-school and Kindergarten starts in the fall of 2017. I would have shared that answer a few months ago, but if you asked me today, I would have to admit, I was wrong. The next milestone is Cooper’s life starts tomorrow and I may be more nervous than he is.

We have spent the last week hitting local sporting good stores, making sure he has the proper shoes and apparel and just the right kind of bat, glove and balls. It’s been exciting. If you have put the clues together, you may have guessed, Tee-ball season is upon us! While I can see how parents can get carried away buying the very best for their children, I am aware of the fact that Cooper is only four years old. I think we have time to buy him the best. Preferably something he will not grow out of in a couple of months.

We spent yesterday at the park practicing. Cooper fielded some ground balls, played catch (kind of) and hit the ball off the tee. While we have done this a handful of times prior to yesterday, I was surprised how well he did. Yes, he gets frustrated easily, but who doesn’t when things do not go as we expect them to.

The similarities between education and coaching are abundant and with our first practice tomorrow night, followed by our first game this Saturday there are three things I am going to do my best to remember as we embark on our season and celebrate this milestone. I need to be mindful of the same three things between now and the end of the school year.

Patience – I will need to have patience. Cooper is not going to do everything right the first time. He has never played Tee-ball before. Similar to how our students arrive in our classrooms, students have had different experiences and sometimes have not been exposed to the thinking or learning they need to be successful. It is our jobs as teachers to introduce, allow for practice, guide their development and most importantly exercise patience. It takes time to acquire a new skill. Fielding ground balls, throwing to an actual target and hitting a ball require a certain level of skill and athleticism Cooper will acquire over time. As Cooper says, “Patience means waiting and waiting is hard.”

Celebrate – Cooper is going to make a great play, knocking down the ball, stopping the ball in its tracks and chasing down a ball that is just out of his reach. For each great play he makes, there will more than likely be a handful of plays that are not great. He is learning. It will be important for us to celebrate the great plays and focus on the success. No one needs to be reminded of what we do wrong. Cooper understands what it is “suppose” to feel and look like and he gets frustrated when it does not work out the way he wants it to. Do you have students in your classrooms that know what they are “supposed” to be doing, but struggle to make it happen? I can think of one or two. How often do we get stuck, focusing on what students are doing wrong instead of celebrating when they make a great play? Probably too often. I look forward to the smile that will be on Coop’s face when he makes a great play and hear’s his daddy cheering him on.

Listen – With Tee-ball being our first organized sport, it is important to me that Cooper enjoys the experience. If he is not enjoying it, he will let us know. As a four year old, it may not come out as clear as, “I do not like Tee-ball” so I will need to listen carefully. I will listen to Cooper share his experience with others, what he says about his teammates and what he says about how much fun he is having. Cooper has many years to play organized sports and as a four year old, the last thing he should be feeling is forced to play something he does not like. Chances are, he will love it, but I have witnessed and experienced teammates who were pressured to play on a team because their parents wanted them to. Needless to say, if they were pressured to play, they did not enjoy it and did not feel as if they could share that feeling with their parents because the parents would not listen. Listening is something that teachers can do in classrooms as well. Today more than ever, student voice is being highlighted and acted upon. Do you let students have a voice in their learning? In their classrooms? Or are we forcing students to do something they have little input/interest in?  If students have a voice in their learning, their vested interest and engagement increases. Right now, Cooper is interested in Tee-ball and tomorrow’s practice is all he has been talking about for the last three days. What have I been doing the last three days…just listening.

With our first practice scheduled to begin in less than twenty-four hours, Cooper is beyond excited and I am nervous as can be. I am nervous that I will be able to exercise patience, celebrate and listen and I am nervous as to how Cooper will do. Regardless of how nervous I am, this milestone is exciting. I remember my playing days and being nervous prior to the first play, but I also remember how quickly the nerves go away the minute the ball is snapped. I am sure the minute we start practice tomorrow night. the nerves will subside, Coop will have a blast, playing and learning and I will be able to be patient, celebrate and listen.

Stay tuned!

What was your moment today?