What is Your Hope?

It was exactly one week ago that I stood in front of the students and staff of #SiglerNation and shared the slide below with the hope we have as adults for the students in our building. As I stood in front of just over 400 students and

articulated each hope we have, I couldn’t have predicted the impact of the message nor the person it impacted most. ME!

It was 8:00AM on Sunday morning. I was standing with thousands of marines and over 30,000 runners from all over the world at the starting line of the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington DC. I had flown over thirteen hundred miles to run one of the largest marathons in the world and it almost did not happen.

When I went to bed Saturday evening I did not feel right. My body was trying to tell me something and I simply did not want to hear it. I went to bed feeling cold and woke up countless times feeling hot, sweaty and needing to go to the bathroom more times than I could count. (Without getting all TMI, we will stop there) At 5:45AM I woke up my wife questioning whether I should run the race I had spent the last 20 weeks training for. After some prayer and counsel, I made the decision to run, but promised myself and my wife I would listen to my body should things get worse. With two Aleve in hand, I was out the door headed to the shuttle which would deliver me to the starting line.

As the howitzer fired, sending 30,000 runners off onto a route stretching across 26.2 miles, I felt great! It was around mile 10 I realized I was in for a long day. By mile 13 I had to stop at the medical tent and seek the advice of medical staff. With the reassurance I was not going to cause further harm upon my body, I set out for mile 14.

I was done.

I have never quit a thing in my life, but with 12 miles to go, I was miserable. I was way off pace, way uncomfortable and mentally checked out of running 12 more miles, let alone a total of 26.2. I wanted to quit.

All of a sudden it hit me.

I am running through Washington DC. I am running through a city that embodies struggle, perseverance and victory. I am surrounded by marines, willing to give their lives to fight for MY freedom. Then the students of #SiglerNation came to mind. My hope for them just two days ago was “don’t give up” when things get hard. How could I possibly fly back to Texas without a finisher medal? What kind of hypocrite would I be if I quit this race after telling a gym full of students to not give up when things get hard? I wanted to quit, but the marines, the city and the students kept me going!

The final 14 miles were dreadful. It was excruciating. I stopped. I walked. I was miserable, but I persevered. I did not give up. I did not quit. I crossed that finish line and I could not wait to get back to school with my head held high. While the time I posted was far from my best, I am proud of the accomplishment. It is my worst time in years, but is my most fulfilling run yet. Simply because, I did not quit. I did not give up.

The Marathon Impact

You may be reading this wondering, “How does this impact me? I don’t run marathons.” I beg to differ. We all have “marathons“. We all have the thing that pushes us to our limit. The thing that makes us question what we are doing. The thing that seems easier to quit and walk away from than seeing it through to the finish. Regardless of what your “marathon” is, do not quit!

As a school principal I want to be the example to the students, teachers and families I serve. Life is going to provide us with moments we want to walk away from because it would be easier than the alternative. If you walk away once and you quit, what stops you from quitting the next time? The time after that?

I walked up to the start line at 8AM with a goal in mind and I crossed the finish line with a sense of accomplishment completely unrelated to my original goal. Some days we celebrate the goal, some days we celebrate the journey and some days we celebrate the accomplishment. As I crossed the finish line I celebrated the hope I have for our students. It was the very hope I have for our students that I found for myself while on a 26.2 mile journey.

One week ago, I would not have realized how the hope I had for our students is really the same hope I have for myself.

What do you hope for your students? Do you hope the same for yourself?

Create a Network – #IMMOOC

One of the prompts shared for week 2 of #IMMOOC Season 3 resonated with me on a deeper level than the others based upon where I currently am as a leader. When looking at the “Characteristics of a Innovator’s Mindset the notion of being “networked” stood out to me. It also reminded me of a post George wrote last year titled, “The Arrows Go Back and Forth”. I have worked hard on many levels to be “networked”. As I have grown as a leader being able to “Create a Network” for myself and others has become a passion.

As hard as I have worked to become “networked” it does not get lost on me that there are people in my life who were “networked” before me. They supported me, introduced me and helped connect me to others within their networks, further creating mine. I am called to do the same for the educators I interact with and the teachers I have the pleasure of working along side.

Often times a term like “networked” can be discussed in regards to innovation. We instantly think that means being plugged in, being online and connecting via technology. There is a time and place for that, but I would consider that to be “networked” on a macro level. As great as that is, I believe it is equally important to “networked” on a micro level. Knowing who you can “network” with locally is valuable. There are resources within our school district and even our own building. Never underestimate the power of meeting with someone face to face.

Networked at a Macro Level

If you are reading this or participating in #IMMOOC Season 3 we are “networked” on a macro level. Chances are many of us will never cross paths, yet we share a common theme of learning together. We read each other’s blogs, participate in Twitter chats and communicate in 140 characters at a time. I know at any moment I can send out a message via a number of social media platforms and someone somewhere is going to see it, hopefully respond to it and make me a better educator. I am connected to thousands of educators whom I have never met, yet we have something in common. We are “networked”.

 

Networked at a Micro Level

As a building leader I have been meeting with teachers recently discussing their professional goals and supporting them in the development of action steps to help their learning. One of the things I appreciate most about the goal setting process is sitting down with each teacher and just listening. Through listening I am able to identify how teachers will be growing professionally. As I listen to each teacher, I become more aware of how I can help them become “networked” with other teachers in our building who have like goals. In some cases, I can help them become “networked” with teachers outside of our building or even central office staff who can support an action step. There is a sense of comfort that comes with being “networked” with other educators in a building or district that may not exist when being “networked” on a macro level.

Networked at Both Levels

Just today, as I am attending the National Conference for Family Learning, I met, 5th grade teacher Leticia Citizen from Arcadia, California. As she engaged me in a session tying Wonderopolis, Nonfiction Text and Poetry together, I could not help but begin thinking of ways to help connect her with our 5th grade teachers back at #SiglerNation. After a brief conversation and a few tweets, we connected our teachers. We will be connecting 5th graders in Plano ISD with 5th grades in Arcadia USD soon.

Within the same session a group of Wonderopolis Ambassadors were sitting a row behind me. As the session came to a close, I could not help but eavesdrop on the conversation and introduce myself. After exchanging introductions I quickly realized the person I was chatting with was a member of my #PLN. Our conversation went to another level instantly. Before we knew it, we were discussing ways #SiglerNation could connect with her through an upcoming Global Gallery Project #AutumnABlaze. It was a pleasure to connect with Carol Varsalona!

As #IMMOOC Season 3 continues, I know I will grow my network on both a macro and micro level. I will be able to network with other passionate educators via many of the platforms connected to #IMMOOC. As a result, I grow from their thinking and experiences. Subsequently I am able to share my learning with teachers and colleagues locally, helping them create a network.

As George states in his article, “It is not only what you consume, but what you create.” My goal as the principal of #SiglerNation is to
“Create a Network” but also “Create a Network” for others.

Here is to networking!

The “I” is for Innovation #IMMOOC

As an education leader, I recognize I am strengthened by the folks I choose to surround myself with. One of the folks that supports me as a person, friend, and colleague is the fabulous Assistant Principal of #SiglerNation, Mrs. Carrie Tracy. Below is the first of what I hope is many more collaborative posts. 

The month of October is here and that means two things; #IMMOOC is back and the campus improvement plan for Sigler Elementary is due soon. As the deadline draws near we find ourselves struggling to articulate the exact steps we will take as a staff to improve. It is not because we do not know what we need, rather we find the system of school improvement focused around a bottom line that is dictated by state testing and the improvement of a score. We are not naive. We get it. Ultimately the bottom line is what drives public school systems. We may not like it. We may not agree with it, but we better find a way to make it work for us, our staff and the students of #SiglerNation.

My first experience with a Site Based Improvement Committee was as an assistant principal seventeen years ago.  Back in the day it was called a Local School Council but the makeup of the committee and my perception toward it had not changed. Schools search high & low asking people to serve on the committee (we are still looking for two more parents to serve…you interested?).  Administrators try to create time to analyze multiple surveys/assessments & craft  goals aligned with the data while simultaneously doing school day in and day out. Teachers are asked to serve on a committee after  already giving an inordinate amount of hours towards instruction(thank you to all who said yes).  In my experience, what should have been a meaningful exchange between schools and the community ends up becoming  a task to check off the list.

Recently during a conversation with a Ashley Helms, a colleague of mine, I shared some of my thoughts with the campus improvement process and our up coming Site Based Improvement Committee (SBIC) Meeting. Ashley made one simple statement that changed my mindset and my approach to the improvement process. She said, “At #SiglerNation the “I” stands for Innovation.”

When Matt “voxered” me his conversation with Ashley….my initial internal response was,  “How can we possibly make an SBIC committee innovative? Does he remember the meeting is in 5 days and we are still writing out our plan?”  My response to Matt was, of course, much more optimistic! Having only worked with him a year, I already know once an idea gets percolating in his mind, we are moving forward full steam ahead….

Ashley’s statement stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a complete ah-ha moment. Our SBIC members are really members of our Site Based Innovation Committee. Simply saying it out loud and seeing it in writing infuses energy into wanting to make meaningful change we can all believe in. Replacing the word “improvement” with “innovation” reminds me of the following question George challenges us to understand, “How do we start to innovate inside the box?” If improvement plans are going to be required, how do we make them work for us? How do we find new and better ways to articulate our change within the confines of our requirements?

“A way of thinking that creates something new and better”

George uses this to definition to define innovation. If you think of this in terms of school improvement, it’s what we are seeking, right? We want to create new and better ways for educators to plan, collaborate, intervene and reflect on student learning. Sometimes the word, innovation, intimidates me. I think about  what something looks like at it’s very best and most perfect state and I want  to time travel to that space immediately.  But, maybe sometimes innovation is the  process of making something new and better. How can we innovate within the scope of our improvement plan to create something new and better? This question has stuck with me as I aim to complete ours and host our first meeting of the year later this week.

Updated Following our 1st SBIC Meeting…

For our first upcoming meeting we made some small changes in that direction.

Starbucks

All good thinking happens at Starbucks right? Matt and I created time on a Sunday afternoon where we could fully focus on the task at hand instead of carving out 10 minutes here and there within the school day. It allowed time for him to fully guide me through the process as it has changed substantially since I last wrote a plan in my past admin life. It also allowed us time to talk through what we were envisioning for the campus over the next couple of years.

 

 

 

Paperless

Guess what? We didn’t print out the plan.  We shared it ahead of time and asked everyone to bring their own devices.  We also had computers available but in full disclosure, I wasn’t able to figure out how to download the plan to the Chromebooks without staying logged in…sooo need to work through that little kink or have a few copies printed out.  I also would like to utilize the “comments” option within google docs to allow for an elevated level of participation.

 

 

Collaborative

We asked for 1 teacher, 1 parent, 1 parent/community member, 1 campus/district professional to sit together to ensure we had a diverse group at each table. We had some “getting to know you questions” at each table to help break the ice as each shared an elementary school memory.  Each group was asked to read through a specific goal which they would then share out to the larger group. My hope was the smaller groups would allow for more dialogue and investment in the action plan.

 

As I reflect on our first meeting, I feel good about making those small steps. In the past, we would have had teachers take turns sharing out components of the plan to the large group while stakeholders sat quietly listening but not engaging.  It was nice to look around the room and see community members asking questions and parents sharing their perspective based on their own experiences. There was a level of intimacy and energy in the room that I had not observed in past meetings.

As I think about our next meeting where we share how we are progressing on our goals, I have visions of taking the committee on a tour of the campus where they can experience some of the action steps we are working on or maybe having students come to the committee and share what the action steps look like from their perspective.  

This experience has taught me to never accept the status quo and assume there is no better way.  We must always push for innovation and sometimes that may be in small steps.  Matt & I work at very different speeds but I’m thankful for it.  I tend to have lots of ideas in my head but freeze at the action step in fear that it will fail or – if I’m completely honest – will be a lot of hard work.  Matt pushes me to take ideas and give them life.

We do not have all the answers yet. As we work through this school year with our plan to improve  innovate, We know if we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got and “ain’t nobody got time for that”.