“Go Hard” Leadership

I recently had the opportunity to meet with my supervisor and share the story of #SiglerNation, highlighting the work of our teachers, students and community. I have never been one to shy away from lifting up the amazing work our teachers do. With a visitor in tow, I carried on and on about how great our teachers are and how humbling it is work be able to be called the “leader” of such a fine staff. (Read more about #SiglerNation HERE)

About a week later, I received a note thanking me for my time and for sharing the work our teachers have been doing to positively impact our students. The following quote was shared inside:

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Weeks later this quote has stuck with me as we make our way through the first weeks of school. This has been a unique year in which we have many new staff members to the building with only one being in her first year of teaching. The teacher capacity we added to our staff is significant beyond measure, but what I take for granted is the way we do school at Sigler. It is different than how other campuses do school. Different is not bad nor is it different in a good way. It is just different. As I’ve witnessed some of the strongest teachers I know be humbled by the difference, this quote motivates me to want to be there for all of them. It inspires me to do everything in my power to ease the transition and allow them to focus on the very thing we brought them to #SiglerNation to do…TEACH!

This quote embodies the way in which I lead. It’s who I am.

A few years back, our staff participated in a True Colors Personality Test…my color Orange. Why? My competitive spirit, drive and ability to do many things at once.

Just last month our staff participated in the StrengthFinders Assessment via Gallup. My number one Strength…Competition.

I feel the need clarify my competition is not with other principals, schools or campuses, but merely an internal competition. A drive to be better tomorrow than I was today. The same drive fuels me outside of my work. Case in point, why else would I be training for a marathon during arguably the busiest time of the school year. (Marine Corp Marathon in Oct.).

If I take the quote and match it with my personality, I break down my leadership style into three simple words, “I go hard.”

Positives of a “go hard” mentality

I am here to serve. I am going to remember what you need and find a time to deliver. It might be a 7AM parent meeting or a 4:30 goals conference, but if you need me, I will be there. A school event on a Friday night. Yep. Visiting the the community on a Saturday to be sure our school is represented? Would not miss it. If you need my help, I am going to be sure you get it.

I am invested. Your students are my students. Your concerns are my concerns and your needs are my needs. I am only as successful as the students, teachers and parents I serve, therefore I am invested in making sure they reach their highest level of success. I say that well knowing these levels of success do not happen over night, in a day or even a month. I am invested for the duration. Let’s work together, develop a plan and see the plan through. I am not going anywhere. You do not quit on me and I will not quit on you.

I am available. Throughout a typical school day there are a million and ten reasons why I could be in my office, but I choose not to be. I choose to set up shop in classrooms, eat in the cafeteria or stand at the school store greeting hundreds of our students. When the teacher comes to me and says, “Do you have a minute?” I look at them, regardless of what is taking place and my answer is, “Yes.” Texts, Voxes, Tweets and phone calls, I receive them all. The staff knows they can reach out and they know I will respond.

Flaws of a “go hard” mentality

I naturally expect everyone else to be like me. Thankfully they are not. A teacher’s number one priority is not their job. Their number one priority should be their family, or their spouse. It should be themselves. If I can be honest, I am blessed to work in a building of folks that “go hard” but I do worry about their work life balance just as much as I worry about mine. I would like to think we hold each other accountable to ensure we are putting first things first.

I cannot shut it off. I work all day and when I come home there are times despite the best of my intentions, I am still working. While the focus should be on my family I find myself trying to do both. (See orange reference above).

There are times I am not at my best. I am tired. The old adage of burning the candle at both ends…I can burn that baby down. I need to remind myself that the school year is not a sprint, but a marathon. Not every task needs to be completed ASAP. Going home at a reasonable hour to enjoy my family is OK.

Ultimately, the very thing that makes me great at what I do can be the thing that stops me from being great. Finding the balance is the key and surrounding myself with teacher leaders who can support our students, teachers and families will ensure we are at our best.

Behind every great staff, team or company you find a great leader. Or perhaps behind every great leader you find a great staff, team or company. Regardless of which you put first, one is not more important than the other. In fact, within every great staff, team and company you have multiple leaders. Collectively it is the sum of all the parts that drives the work forward within your school, sport or business.

Thankfully for me, I am on a team with a bunch of strong parts who in their own right, know how to “go hard”.

Amplify the Voices

If you have been paying any attention to my Twitter feed or reading my recent posts, you will know Sigler Elementary is using the hashtag #SiglerNation to amplify the voices of our school community and connect with others across our great nation and the world. It’s more than lip service. In order to hold us accountable, this map is displayed in our front hallway to celebrate the connections being made! This is just the beginning! (Thanks for the idea Joe Sanfelippo) #GoCrickets

For those of you reading about #SiglerNation for the first time, you need to begin here, with my post Welcome to #SiglerNation.

As we progress through the school year we will change the lens through which we view school. It is easy to view school through the lens of the adults, but those are just a few of the voices we need to amplify. Our goal is to amplify the voices of our students. In order to do so, the lens we need to view school through is through that of our students.

A small change we have made already is how we send information home. In year’s past, I would send out a S’more newsletter highlighting what went home, what events are coming up and absolutes parents needed to know about. Each newsletter was through my lens. The lens of the campus principal.

This past Friday, we released our first issue of “The Sigler Voice”. Our new S’more newsletter. The Sigler Voice includes what takes place in the grades levels of #SiglerNation through the lens of the students. While this was just our first issue, I am excited to see how we collectively amplify the voices of our students, teachers and parents as the year goes on. I know we will look back at our first issue and marvel at how we grew in our ability to amplify the voices.

How do you amplify the voices within your school community? Are you ready to amplify your voices with ours?

Comment below.

Let’s connect!

#SiglerNation is waiting.

 

 

Just Say Yes

A team of phenomenal teachers and I were able to share the transformational story of #SiglerNation yesterday at #NTVC2017. We had shared this story once before (check it here) so on the eve of the presentation I was reviewing my notes for the next day. Having just wrapped up reading Student Voice: The Instrument of Change I was in full on reflection mode and I came upon a stark realization while reviewing for the following day’s presentation. Each of the areas the teachers were sharing the following day was an expression of their voice. They were sharing something they were passionate about to a room full of strangers because they were proud of their efforts. More importantly, they were proud of the way their; dare I say innovative practices, positively impacted the success of their students.

Pictured: Assistant Principal of the Year – Carrie Tracy, Desirae Rieke, Matt Arend & Melinda Hoover

I remember each of the days Melinda Hoover, Desirae Rieke and Dora Deboer came to me with individual ideas they wanted to run with. Melinda was interested in turning her classroom into an environment similar to Starbucks. (She was a 2nd grade teacher). Desirae was looking for some motivation and ways to infuse technology into her classroom. (3rd grade teacher) I recommended she read Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and join in what would be the first #IMMOOC. Dora had just experienced a taste of what real authentic learning experiences could do to empower the learning of her bilingual students and was brainstorming ways to connect with a wider audience of teachers and learners across the world. (Bilingual Title I Teacher)

I won’t get into the explicit conversations that followed, but for those of you who are reading that are building leaders, there are three words of advice I have for you when a teacher in your building stops by the office, catches you in the hallway or gives you a call out of the blue asking “If you have a minute”. JUST SAY YES!

The realization I came to while reviewing for yesterday’s presentation was that the students who benefited from three separate transformational ideas and the teachers who were ready to jump into something new with two feet who are now sharing their story with audiences across the state of Texas could have missed out on all of it, had I said no. Just like that, it could have been gone. Experiences erased. Aspirations crushed. The next time either of these teachers had an idea they wanted to try. Forget about it. There would have been no way they would come and face the hard truth of getting told “no” again. The classroom complete with couches and Starbucks coffee would simply continue to look like it had for years prior. Desks would be in rows and students in seats. A classroom with 7 laptops of which 3 would be fully functional on a good day, would not be abundantly stocked with iPads. Students who are armed and ready to collaborate and create on their recently acquired Chromebooks would be at the ready for the next worksheet. The students in a bilingual reading intervention group would have never connected with over 7 countries and students from around the world sharing how proud they are of the culture and heritage nor learn about how proud other students and their own parents are of their ethnic backgrounds.

Let’s be honest. You can ask “Why?” or you can ask “Why not?” You can trust the professionals you have hired to take risks to better themselves and their students or you can stifle the very creativity which lead you to hire them.

We all know that saying yes does not guarantee success, but saying no guarantees you will never know. It may not turn out right the first time. We will learn from what did not go as planned and try it again the next day. We will throw away the flexible seating option that was “accidently popped” by a pencil and replace it with a brand new one while revisiting the expectations. When the Google Classroom connection does not work, we will proudly own the #techfail and move on to plan B, because there is always a plan B.

The beginning of the school year is quickly approaching and you can count on at least one teacher asking you the million dollar question, “Do you have a minute?” Hear them out. Ask your questions. Take time to think about it if need be. Follow back around with additional questions or heck, even ask them why. Once you have all your questions answered, you know what to do.

Just say yes!

What will you say yes to this year that will positively change learning for the students and teachers on your campus? Include your comment below.

Welcome to #SiglerNation

Each year principals and teachers across the country strive to create themes, motto’s and yes even hashtags that will inspire their campus community throughout the upcoming school year. Sound right? Been there? Done that? Me too!

We Are Sigler, Sigler State of Mind, Bright Future Campaign, #OwnIt, #IWill are all themes or hashtags that have been introduced at Sigler Elementary to provide teachers, staff and students with a platform to carry forward the great work they will embark upon during the school year. Each theme provided an opportunity to share in detail how a few words can inspire the Sigler community to come together.

As schools become more prolific with the use of social media and sharing their stories across a variety of mediums, you will find campuses and districts have hashtags to help share learning experiences and opportunities that exist both inside and outside of the school’s walls. Our campus is no different. (Read more about our story here.) Years ago #siglerlearns was introduced as our campus hashtag. Since it’s introduction it has been used to highlight the learning of our students and teachers as well unique experiences and opportunities our students and staff have been afforded. While #siglerlearns has it’s place, our campus has transformed over the years and we are ready for the next step. Do not worry…#siglerlearns is not going away. We are just going bigger.

As time was spent coming up with a theme for the upcoming school year it was as if I had an epiphany. While each of the themes mentioned earlier in the post served a purpose and were timely in their own respect, they each only lasted a single school year. The theme became something to rally around for a year. It was a tagline on a t-shirt. It was celebrated at pep-assemblies. It was mentioned in weekly publications to staff and the community and then with the final school bell of the year, it went away leaving people to wonder what next year’s theme would be.

We are going bigger. There will be a theme, but beyond a theme, we are growing something special at Sigler Elementary and it is time for everyone to be made aware. This is not going away. We are here to stay!

Welcome to the rebirth and re-branding of Sigler Elementary. Welcome to #SiglerNation.

The Faces of #SiglerNation

While schools spend a vast amount of time telling their story and sharing their school’s message we must not forget the faces behind the story. The image you see here captures the faces of #SiglerNation

The Faces of #SiglerNation

These faces represent the voices we want to amplify. We aspire to connect these voices with the voices of other students from across the nation and across the world. We aspire to give these voices a platform and a sincere opportunity to be heard. In the book Student Voice: The Instrument of Change the authors share, “…before there is an “I,” there is a “we.”” Together as students, teachers, parents, administrators and the community we will lift up these voices to connect, grow and be heard.

 The People of #SiglerNation

The great philosopher Aristotle said it best, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The staff at Sigler Elementary was strong when I was named principal at Sigler Elementary six years ago and since that time, we have only grown stronger. We have grown together. We have lifted each other up. We have empowered one another to reach new heights. The people of #SiglerNation have established new expectations for one another. Together we look to exceed these expectations not as individuals, but as a team, as a staff and as a family.

In the upcoming year, empowered staff from #SiglerNation will look to share their transformational story with other educators in an effort to inspire others to follow in their footsteps and unlock learning opportunities for students around the world. We share this knowing with each opportunity to share comes an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to grow. Sharing, learning & growing is what embodies #SiglerNation.

The people of #SiglerNation know teaching our students is not a job, it is a calling. We are called upon to do better and be better and together we have, we can and we will.

Proud to Represent #SiglerNation

In the end, this is what it comes down to…PRIDE. #SiglerNation was built upon years of relentless work, effort and an extreme sense of pride. We take pride in our approach to educating students. We take pride in our partnerships with parents and our community. We take pride in knowing we want to do school differently…and we do!

Our goal is for parents to choose Sigler Elementary. Our goal is for parents to want to enroll their children at Sigler Elementary; to become a part of #SiglerNation…and they are!

Our goal is for teachers to choose Sigler Elementary. Our goal is for teachers to want to work at Sigler Elementary; to become part of #SiglerNation…and they are!

Our goal is for students to choose Sigler Elementary. Our goal is for students to want to succeed at Sigler Elementary; to lift up and be champions for #SiglerNation…and they are!

We are going bigger and we want you to join us! Come be a part of #SiglerNation. It may mean your children enroll with us. It may mean you come work with us. It may mean you find a way to connect with us. Regardless of what it means for you, #SiglerNation is waiting. We are waiting for you! Throughout the upcoming school year we will seek you out. We will reach out. We want to share our story with you. Our students’ voices will be amplified and shared with any and all who will want to listen.

Are you listening? Are you joining us? What are you waiting for?

Welcome to #SiglerNation

 

 

Tell Our Story

The last day of school was this past Friday and one tradition I have grown to love is piecing together photos from throughout the year into a video and sharing all of these memories that tell our story during the final spirit assembly. While the video reminds this principal just how hard our teachers work and how we find the balance between pushing innovative practices and teaching students that 2+2=4 and learning to read it also serves another purpose.

The video capturing the highlights and memories of the year tell our story. Check it out!

You are probably asking, how do you capture nearly 180 days of instruction into a video at the end of the year? Well…thank you for asking.

We do it as a family! The Sigler community has bought into the notion we have heard so many share about.

“If you do not tell your story, someone else will…” – Eric Sheniger

We tell our story. Each grade level/department has a twitter account and we tell our story each day. We are proud of the work our students and teachers produce and we want our parents, community and the world to see it. In addition to the Twitter accounts, our campus hashtag #siglerlearns is used building wide to share our learning and the learning of others.
We have not always been where we are now. We have grown and developed into the campus we are today. The most important step we had to take was one I took first. I, the principal of the building, had to get comfortable with not being the only one sharing. I had to let go of the control and let the teachers/staff share right along with me. Since then, we have not looked back.
We share, we tweet, we learn. Most importantly, we tell our story. As summer is upon us this video serves as a PSA for anyone and everyone interested in checking us out. It is pinned to our @SiglerStars Twitter account as well as our Sigler Stars Facebook Page . It sits on our website and let’s everyone know what we are about at Sigler Elementary.
***Fast Forward to August***
New teachers arrive. The social media culture may be new to them. They have not been a part of our lifestyle yet. What’s one of the first things we do with them? Tell our story and show them this video of course. One of the things I point out at the conclusion of the video…
Every image in the video, came directly from our social media pages and hashtags.
Who do you let tell your story?
We hope you join us in telling the story and become a part of #SiglerNation.
The following accounts are all linked to #SiglerNation

Building School Culture – #SummerSelfieBingo

Building school culture is something I am passionate about and have been focused on since I walked into the door at Sigler Elementary six years ago. Author Baruti Kafele, in his book Closing the Attitude Gap reduces culture into one word: lifestyle. I want to love the lifestyle we cultivate and I want the amazing teachers who work here to love it too. I want folks who walk into our building to recognize the culture (lifestyle) we have created.

Building school culture does not just happen while school is in session. While led by the principal, developing a lifestyle within the walls of a classroom and school is a collective group effort; including the students, staff, teachers and community. Building school culture happens all year long. Yes, building school culture even takes place over the summer.

Welcome to our 2nd annual #SummerSelfieBingo challenge.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to participate in as many of the activities listed above, capturing yourself in the moment by taking a selfie! In our second year, we have some of the traditional summer activities returning with some new opportunities added to the bingo board as well.

New Activities Include:

360 Degree Video Selfie – Inspired by the work of Dora Deboer you are challenged to commemorate just the right event and complete a 360 degree video selfie.

Neighborhood Selfie – The communities educators serve are the lifeline of the school. I hope you spend some time in your school community this summer. Take a selfie in your neighborhood and let us know where you live. If you are local & happen to see a “We Support Sigler Elementary” sign, take a selfie showing just how much you #LoveSigler.

#SiglerNation Selfie – Next fall we are rolling out a new branding hashtag for our school community and we want you to be a part of #SiglerNation. This selfie can look very different. If you are local, come find us. Take a photo outside of our wonderful school. Even better, track down a staff member (look for us on Twitter) and take a selfie with one of us. If you are a current member of #SiglerNation, take a selfie in your Sigler spirit wear. As a bonus, complete one of the other selfies in your Sigler spirit wear and knock out two birds with one stone. Bottom line…we want to grow #SiglerNation and want you to join us!

The rules are simple.
  1. Get on Twitter. (Those new to Twitter can begin here)
  2. Share how great your summer is using the #SummerSelfieChallenge hashtag while you complete the selfies above.
  3. Use the Google Doc linked here to access your own game board. (It should open up as a copy thanks to my friend Ashley Helms.
  4. You cannot double up selfies unless you are partnering your selfie w/ #SiglerNation.
  5. Get a Bingo (or two or three)
  6. Have a great summer

Yes, summer is meant to relax, unplug, reflect and recharge, but while you are doing all of those important things, do not forget you are also building school culture. You have a lifestyle to create in your building. What are you waiting for?

We look forward to seeing your selfies!

What other selfies you would like added to the #SummerSelfieBingo challenge board? Comment below and we will add them for next year. 

Want to edit your own copy of the #SummerSelfieBingo board? Here is a collaborative link to Canva where it was originally created.