Are You Cultivating Passion?

My summer goes pretty fast as a school administrator and even faster as a school administrator who moonlights as a summer school principal. I am not complaining. It just goes fast. In the days that I do have, I do my best to spend time with my family, unplug from work & read. I keep a stack of books on the end of my desk that I come across throughout the year, knowing summer will be my best time to dive deep and spend some time reflecting on what I have read. I have yet to find enough balance throughout the school year to really read like I would want to with so many other plates spinning. I rely on blogs, which are much shorter reads to feed me.

Last February, I was able to see and hear Angela Maiers present at TCEA in Austin, TX. I was so inspired by her message, that her Classroom Habitudes book made its way to the corner of my desk upon my return. After a couple of hours by the pool today, with my book and highlighter in hand, I was able to finish reading Classroom Habitudes. I love it!

As students across the country return to school in a month of so, we expect so much out of them and we often forget that everything we expect must be explicitly taught. (So is the case for me as an elementary school principal). If I had a nickel for the number of times I have said or have heard a teacher say, “Our students need to improve in the area of problem solving, I would be rich.” After reading this book, I am questioning how well I have led our teachers to explicitly teach our students the “habitudes” it takes to be a skillful problem solver. Maybe we do…a little…but at the end of the day, I think we just want it to happen through osmosis. Much like we teach students to read and apply number sense in math, we have to believe these “classroom habitudes” are important enough to spend time explicitly teaching to our students and then embed them into our content and curriculum.

Classroom Habitudes – Angela Maiers


I think you would agree, as educators we want our students to develop these habits and attitudes. Do we want them bad enough to explicitly teach students how to go about cultivating these habits and attitudes? It is one thing want it and a whole new level to actually do something about it and make it happen. “Classroom Habitudes” is full of lessons and resources that teachers can begin using tomorrow to further develop these habits and attitudes in students.

As I was reading today, there was one particular habitude that struck a cord with me. Passion. Angela
Maiers defines the passion habitude as follows:

Passion is the ability to intentionally pursue actions that are personally and socially meaningful.

Read that again…

Now, in the Texas, STAAR results have recently been shared with districts across the state. If you were to poll the students who took STAAR this past spring, how many of them do you think would find the STAAR personally and socially meaningful? I ask that because, I/we are holding ourselves hostage & our students hostage to a test that at the end of the day, is not meaningful to students.

Do you feel your instruction meets the needs of your students as defined above? Are you creating opportunities for students to “intentionally pursue actions that are personally and socially meaningful“?

Angela Maiers includes some reflective questions to determine whether or not you are preparing students to be good at school or prepare them for life.

  • Are we helping students discover & work on things they are truly good at? 
  • Do students go home at the end of the day emotionally charged or emotionally drained? 
  • Will students remember the projects we’re working on today five years from now? 
  • Are we proud of the work we do? Are our students proud of the work they do? 
  • Does the cause for which we fight go beyond making the grade or increasing a test score? 
  • Does the cause create meaning in our students’ lives?
I am not sure how you honestly answer those questions, but Angela Maiers shares the following:
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you can be assured that your current curriculum, schedule, and classroom environment cultivate the kind of passion that will enable students to live more fulfilling lives, lead courageously, and engage in work worth bragging about!” 

My question is, “What if you answered no?” What if the curriculum, schedule and environment are not cultivating the kind of passion that our students need to develop? If we agree, these habitudes need to be increasingly present in the lives of our students, it is time we look in the mirror and ensure we are cultivating the same habitudes in ourselves as leaders and teachers. 
I for one, do not want students leaving our building without being able to live more fulfilling lives, lead courageously and engage in work worth bragging about. 
What do you want? 

Periodic Table of Teaching – #TeachersMatter

This is going to be an awesome opportunity to harness the power of our professional learning networks to create something that (to the best of my knowledge) has never been created before. If it has, I cannot find it and that includes an hour or two of searching the mother ship of all things created for education….Pinterest.

The first full week of May is Teacher Appreciation Week, which means for the last month or so, our PTA and I have been collaborating on ideas and searching for suggestions. One idea we came up with was harnessing the power of social media and my PLN to create the Periodic Table of Teaching, because as you know #TeachersMatter. Get it…matter…science….periodic table?

We have started a list and have come up with an impressive list in my opinion, but we need your help. Can you help us develop a Periodic Table of Teaching?

Use the link below to add your thoughts and suggestions to what terms, character traits or words can be used to describe teachers that will reflect the periodic table, seen above. For example Sn may stand for sensitive. The goal would be to come up with a different term, trait or word for each element.

Periodic Table of Teaching 

I am excited to see us collectively harness the power of social media to create this powerful reminder that #TeachersMatter.

What was your moment today?

My Moment – Day 33 – Celebrating Parents

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.

At the beginning of the school year I challenged all of our parents to find their place within our school community. It started by setting up ice cream socials within the neighborhood to connect and be present. No pressure to attend, no sales pitch. Just the opportunity for parents to be reminded their children attend a school that is truly a part of the community. Building on momentum created over the summer and into the school months, we challenged parents to be one of three things. We challenged parents to be informed, be involved or be empowered. Each of our parents is at a different place and depending upon where they are, they have the opportunity to be one of these three things. So what do these three things mean? 

Being an informed parent means you are knowledgeable about what is taking place within your son/daughter’s school day. Parents may be informed by notes/fliers that are sent home, by receiving emails, checking social media or by simply talking with their children and checking their agenda. As a campus, we use a variety of communication options and I tease parents, “If you do not know what is taking place at school, it is because you are choosing to be un-informed and that is unacceptable.” 

Throughout the school year we host a series of parent learning opportunities, after school music performances and school wide events in addition to the more traditional parent conferences, class parties and volunteer opportunities that exist in an elementary school setting. An involved parent is in attendance at some of these events. I will be the first to admit, it is not reasonable to expect every parent to attend every event, but an involved parent will do their best to attend the events that meet their needs and support their son/daughter’s development. 

All parents can be difference makers in one way or another. By being informed you support making a difference through the conversations and expectations you hold for your children. By being involved, you support your children and the school community through your participation. Then you have the parents who are informed, involved and empowered. The empowered parent is the parent who is on campus, creating the involvement opportunities, rallying other parents to become more involved and stops at nothing to create the parent/school partnership we desire to build and sustain. 

Tonight I will be attending a PTA Lifetime Achievement Award Banquet recognizing PTA members and parents who have made contributions, both big and small to the schools their children attend. It’s easy to recognize the empowered parents at an event such as this, and to be honest, I am not sure where I would be without our group of Sigler Elementary empowered parents, but do not forget about the involved and informed parents. These are the quiet parents. They come in, attend events when they can, support the heck out of our teachers and then they leave, feeling proud of being a part of a school community that recognizes they are giving what they have to give. I am blessed to be a part of a school community who supports the campus vision, supports the teachers and staff, embraces the same values and ultimately wants what is best for ALL students. 

Tonight we will recognize PTA members who are making a difference in schools, but as I walk across the stage, pausing to share the moment with the deserving,  I will be celebrating ALL of our parents. Whether they are informed, involved or empowered, each plays a role that is invaluable to the work we do in schools and the work we do at Sigler Elementary. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 27 – We Can Show Them Love

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.

This week we are holding progress monitoring meetings or CMIT meetings as they are called in my district to review student progress after middle of the year assessments are complete. As teachers usher in and out of our meeting room we discuss student growth and success and I am reminded of the challenges many of our students face on a daily basis. While conversations revolve around how students are performing in each of the academic areas more often than not, a story emerges about something that is happening outside of school. The stories are not all doom and gloom, in fact some of the stories are rather inspiring. My heart is big enough to love each of our over 430 student equally, but when I hear some of these stories, my heart wants to break. Our teachers are left asking, “What can we do?” I am left asking, “What can we do?” The last thing our students need is my heart breaking. They do not need anyone to feel sorry for them. They need us to understand their stories. They needs us to understand their challenges. They need us to help them develop the tenacity, desire and will to overcome their challenges so their stories become their testimonies to inspire others.

“What can we do?”

In between meetings I sent a colleague a message about how each of the stories I hear serves as a reminder of the emotional load some of our students carry, paired with the expectations we place on them to learn. My colleague responded, “Just remember, you are doing right by meeting those other needs first. I always say, just love them. Students will do anything when they know they are loved.”

Man…exactly right.

As I sit in meetings and want so desperately for our students to find their success in school, continually asking, “What can we do?” I need to remember the answer I know already exists in our hearts. We need to love them. It is what our students need long before they need us to teach them to read and write.

As educators, we all remember our education physiology class and learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. What if our conversations in these meetings shifted and instead of first talking about academics, we reviewed the following questions:

Are the students’ physiological needs being met?
Does the student feel safe in his/her learning environment?
Does the student feel loved?

What if we asked students those questions?

Progress monitoring meetings continue tomorrow and as an employee of a public school system, I know I are charged with the awesome responsibility of teaching students and I am held accountable for their learning. I am also accountable for showing them unconditional love. We as a campus are accountable for showing students unconditional love regardless of how they act, regardless of how they learn and regardless of the emotional load they possess. I know we are and will do our very best to ensure our students reach their level of success at the end of the school year, but the next time I ask, or a teacher asks, ‘What can I do?” I know my response.

We can show them love.

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 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?