Saturday, November 28, 2015

Finding Whitespace

It was a Thursday evening, and there was nothing special about it to start. I was late getting out of school because I needed to take care of a few things. The tension was high, I felt myself internally snap a few times, and my attitude was quite poor. I knew I needed to leave because my anxiety was only going to make matters worse, which it did, and so I fixed the problem I created, running out of the school later than I had hoped.

I told my boys we unfortunately had to do our homework in the car as we ran to get my youngest son from daycare, because we had wrestling practice at 6:00, and we weren't going to make it. They were amazing, working as we drove, reading aloud to me and helping each other out.

When we got home, we quickly finished our homework, ate a quick dinner, changed for wrestling, and we were out the door.

My husband met me at wrestling, where he took the oldest two, and I went home to get things done around the house. I cleaned up my children's dishes, all the while thinking that my husband and I are not going to eat dinner until at least 8:30, which is fairly common. All the school work I wanted to get done at night might not happen as I had hoped. From start to finish, I knew I was not giving the time to my family as I had wanted and I felt my anxiety continually rising.

While folding laundry, I decided to multi-task and catch up with the voxes from my LeadUpNow PLN. This tribe always puts out amazing words and ideas throughout the day. The topic was “Whitespace”.

Whitespace is that time we intentionally build for reflection and rejuvenation. This was pretty foreign to me. I have a hard time sitting down. If I sit, I'm typically plugged in or I'm running around with my kids. Time for myself is rare. And so, I listened to the wisdom of this group, vox after vox. And I began to cry. I finally stopped, sat on the bench in my bedroom and sobbed. All of the feelings of the day and week came rushing over me. The constant desire to work to be my best for my school. The wish to be a better mom and wife. And I knew that I had to make a change or I was not going to be my best for anyone in my life. If I aim to be a leader, I must give myself time to process, think, reflect, and rejuvenate. This is not healthy.

After I calmed a bit, I let my LeadUpNow tribe know how much their words resonated with me. I was emotional and raw, but I needed to be vulnerable in order to change. I needed to put myself out there as I was in that moment. The beauty of this group is that they accepted me for who I am, allowing me to be vulnerable, and I felt their words impact me more than ever. I want to be leaders like them. They inspire. They affect change and see a bigger picture. They have changed me, and I am truly grateful.

So, now I write, once again vulnerable, writing about my internal journey and the importance this reflection has had for me. If I want to be a better leader, I need to take better care of myself and the time I have. I need to be intentional about my whitespace. I always believe in leading by example, and if I want others to reflect and rejuvenate, I must do it too.

Since then...
It has been a couple weeks since that Thursday evening, but the feelings still stir inside. I have been more intentional about my whitespace, making sure that I find even 5 minutes in a day to enter a quiet space to do nothing. Just sit, close my eyes, reflect, and then get up to go about the next task. A few evenings, I have unplugged, not opening a computer, but sitting and watching a cartoon with my kids or talking with my husband. Instead of constantly multi-tasking, I have tried to focus on one task at a time so that I am not overwhelmed and my mind can focus. This intentional whitespace has helped me reclaim my sanity, thinking more clearly and focusing my attention on the things that matter in the moment and in my life.

This whitespace hasn’t just been about me either, though. I now need to build more whitespace for my staff. Instead of filling every meeting with “stuff”, I am going to intentionally build time for my staff to reflect, giving them time. We created whitespace by celebrating our accreditation, having a lunch carry-in, eating and laughing together. I need to model this for my staff so that they too find the whitespace in their lives, rejuvenating for a moment, bringing clarity.

Our Whitespace
Our whitespace is critical to our emotional health. We all feel the need to fill time with all of our to-do lists, but filling every moment is not going to yield better results. In fact, we will be less productive, innovative, and clear in our tasks. Reflection and rejuvenation are critical to be our best. We should never feel bad for taking a moment to breathe, taking a moment to stop and sit, taking moments to spend quality time to reflect, taking even more moments to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed atmosphere.

Whitespace is important.

As a leader, I must create whitespace for myself, model it, give time so my staff can create it for themselves and understand its importance. More importantly, this will then filter to our students. We are better educators because we have clarity and focus, and then we build that whitespace for our students to reflect and innovate as well.

We must value the critical nature of whitespace, being intentional about it daily. This cycle of whitespace must take hold in our schools so that we can be better for our students. In turn, they will grow into the creative thinkers we wish them to be. But it all starts with our own whitespace. It is time we ensure it happens.

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Monday, October 19, 2015


Every day when I open a new tab in my Chrome browser, I am greeted by the Momentum Chrome extension - a beautiful landscape, a friendly message, and an inspiring quote. Today’s quote was this:

Whether it was the meaning behind the quote, the particular word choice within the sentence, or even the person who said it, this quote has stayed with me all day. I’ve been preaching this mindset for a while, and believe in it so much, that it has become a message I internalize daily, while also publicly sharing it with other educators and leaders.

While this might be easy to say, fulfilling this mindset on a daily basis can be more difficult. I believe every educator pushes themselves, but it is the fear of being “paralyzed” that stops us from taking more risks than we do.

I’m particularly struck by the word “paralyzed” from this quote. Images flood my mind - frozen, stuck, unable to move or speak, wide-eyed with fear.

As educators, we do not typically associate ourselves with the concept of being “paralyzed”, and yet, many days we are just that. Our anxiety may take over us, filling us with fear of the unknown or the risk of failing in front of our students and colleagues. We may not want to try a new approach or a new tool, acknowledging that we do not know all there is to know or this strategy might not work.

We work in the learning business, and so we want our students to always be learning. If it worked last year to help students learn, then it must work again, right? We are perfectionists, always striving to do our very best for our students, so we must be on our “A”-game all of the time. The risk of trying something new may not be worth the anxiety, or being paralyzed, in the middle of our lesson. We become paralyzed with a fear of failure, because if it doesn’t work, then somebody might be watching.

Beyond our classrooms, as learning professionals, we also do not want to “sound” like we do not know what we are talking about in front of other educators, particularly educators we may not know well, and so we are paralyzed to step forward, paralyzed to jump onto social media to share our insights, paralyzed to reflect publicly in a blog post. It is not that we can’t. It is not that we don’t have valuable insights and ideas to share. It simply is the anxiety of the unknown feelings after these acts of sharing.

What if I shared an idea EVERYONE already knows?
What if I jumble what I really want to say?
What if…?
What if...?

At any moment, we all may be “paralyzed” with fear of something. But, we cannot allow this to control our abilities to take risks, try something new, and put ourselves out there. We must overcome these fears, follow great examples from other educators, and simply not be afraid to try.

In fact, we ask our students to try something new every day. Why shouldn’t we?

Lead by Example
I strive to lead by example, every day, not allowing myself to be paralyzed by fear of failure. I will take risks, teach myself how to do something, put myself out there on social media and in my blog, and strive daily to share. Daily, I push myself to grow.

Do I fail?
And I do so publicly.
I will not allow the fear of failure get in my way.

Do I have anxiety about failing?
Every day.
However, I will not allow this anxiety to take control of who I am and what I am trying to accomplish in my school.

I have taken many risks in my career. I have started this blog, for instance. Pushing the publish button for the first time was a HUGE risk. The “what if” scenario played in my mind continually. My vulnerability was public. Yet, I knew if I wanted others to reflect through a blog because I have seen the power of it, I had to push that publish button, leading by example.

Many would say I am a little “Twitter-crazy”. To put myself out there on social media was a risk, but it was definitely one worth taking. I learn daily from my PLN, share the great happenings of my school, and have an amazing tribe with whom I rely on for support, ideas, and growth. My PLN tribe pushes me to be better than the day before. This collaborative field of amazing educators has opened the doors of growth, pulled me out of the isolated silos that can be found in our schools, and empowered me to find my voice in the educational field. I am blessed and humbled by the inspiration this venue provides me daily.

Push Yourself
The most exciting part of any given day is when I see educators pushing themselves to be better as well, taking risks, not allowing that fear of failure to paralyze them from trying something new for their students. The mindset of being paralyzed is starting to wane, and I see a new rise of risk-taking, choice, and control over learning take hold in our schools. It is beautiful!

I see many of my teachers on Twitter, sharing, lurking, learning, and growing. Educators are collaborating, opening their doors for other educators, building their own professional learning networks, and setting their goals on growth and learning. I see teachers trying new tools with their students, feeling out of their comfort zone, but giving students control, empowering them with choice. Teachers are starting blogs, now leading a book study about becoming a connected educator. Classrooms are filled with new ideas, a hook to the lesson, inquiry and research.

By saying “yes”, “give it a try”, “take a risk”, and actually modeling what we wish to see, we aim to remove the paralyzed barriers from our teachers, so that they can create the learning environments they wish to see for their students. Teachers can feel the autonomy and empowerment needed to develop spaces and opportunities for students to explore, to create, be curious, to inquire, and take control of their own learning. If we do not push ourselves from our comfort zones, we cannot expect our students to do this either.

Every educator must move beyond the fear of failure, and push themselves to grow and try new strategies and ideas for the betterment of their students. Our students’ futures depend on our willingness to model this mindset in all we do.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Blogger’s block. I fully intend to write in my blog at least once, if not twice a month, but it has been over a month since I have written anything. I have felt completely out of my element, struggling to find words or even a coherent topic, despite my mind racing thousands of miles per hour daily. I have, from time to time, jotted down quick notes or even written that blog post in my head while getting ready in the morning. But inevitably, by the time I sit down to write, my thoughts are jumbled and my notes lack the clarity I need to form cohesive thoughts.

So here I sit, writing about the lack of knowing what to write about. I’m hoping by sitting and typing, the epiphany will hit.

With that said, there have been many great happenings and accomplishments so far at school. Our district had an impressive professional development day at the end of September, starting with a keynote from Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook, followed by fabulous learning about blended learning and collaboration among grade levels and departments district-wide. I was so fortunate to be a part of the planning process alongside fantastic technology leaders Kelly Clifford and Lance Yoder. Even more than that, in just this past week, I have witnessed our classrooms moving toward blended learning, literally overnight, and my teachers rejuvenated with new ideas and sharing, something I haven’t seen at this level in quite some time. It is definitely something worth sharing and celebrating!

And yet, I have felt stuck. Why?

I started to look back through old blog posts, searching for inspiration. Nothing hit me, but I did begin to see a pattern, soon realizing that my past reflections were grounded in one thing, moments.

I have finally come to this conclusion. Through it all, I have been searching for these profound, deep thoughts to reflect upon, and yet, the moments have been right in front of me. The everyday accomplishments are those to celebrate, reflect on, and write about. I have clearly been searching for the wrong thing! The moments all around me, occurring daily, ARE the profound, thought-provoking happenings to share. We need to grab every moment and share it!

The interactions, continual learning, and growth among students and staff are to be celebrated and shared, something I preach and strongly believe in, but I somehow got off track in doing. These moments happen every day, and while they may seem ordinary at the time, are truly the extraordinary and profound to reflect upon later. I’ve been searching for the research, the culture-shifting statement, the thought-provoking analogy, only to find that the best practices have been staring at me in the face, the culture shift I seek to build is happening all around me, and there are no thought-provoking analogies I need to find because my staff and students are taking the amazing journey daily to grow and build a foundation of life-long learning opportunities.

In my reflection, I need to take a moment to stop, look around, and then celebrate and share the adventures of learning happening in front of me. I feel back in my element again, and am ready to get back to what I know and can share.

Even more than that, it is EVERY EDUCATOR’S job to celebrate our work with students. We need to share the fabulous activities and growth of our students daily, posting pictures, making phone calls to parents, and being the positive voice of our schools. It is not ONE person’s job; it is EVERYONE’S job. It only takes a moment to share a moment. This is how we will create a culture of sharing, celebrating, and growth.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Letter

It was March 2007, and I was in Iowa helping my dad go through my mom’s belongings. My mom passed away from cancer in February of that year. My mom kept EVERYTHING, so it was quite a task to go through it all. From birthday party napkins and cards, to pictures and every outfit I wore as a baby, it was a very long week and emotionally tasking. As we went through the boxes of pictures, I came across an envelope.

I showed it to my dad, he shrugged, and so I opened the envelope to find this letter, written on August 25, 1983, my first day of school. It was written to me. This was the first time I had ever seen it.

Dear Amy,
This is just a little note to write down some of my feelings on your 1st day of school. You are so excited. You can hardly sit still. You’ve packed and repacked your purse for 2 weeks getting ready for school. I’m so glad you’re excited for this new adventure in your life. I’m sad too. It’s hard for me to let go...
I hope and pray they are good to you at school. I’ll miss you at home. Things will sure change around here.
You’re happy and that’s what matters. You’re excited too. This is a big step in your life...
All my love,

Every school year since I found this letter, I open and read it on the first day of school. While my mom’s words still bring tears to my eyes, it is a heartfelt reminder of the excitement of the first days of school.  There is so much joy that fills our children’s hearts as they start their new school year, so much excitement and anticipation as the enter the school, ready to learn. I remember this feeling as a student, and I still have this feeling as I enter the hallways each school year.

My school has been in session for a couple weeks now, but each day is an exciting adventure. I want students entering the doors of our school eager and ready to learn every day of the school year, not just on Day 1, but on Day 180 as well. And so, each day we create an adventure. Each day is a journey worth waking up for. We have amazing teachers who do amazing work each day to keep our students excited and eager, and I am so proud to be a part of the forward movement in education.

My mom knew what a big step it was for me, as she not only experienced my excitement on my first day of school, but she also knew the possibilities and experiences that I received in my own education would be life-changing. She knew it was an adventure and one that would change my life. I am thankful for every day I have stepped into a school and the journey I have experienced.

In my role as principal and lead learner of my building, I use this letter as my reminder of the excitement school brings to our children and our duty to ensure it never stops. It is my reminder of the changes our families experience at the start of school and how we can ease them into the routines and joy of learning. It is my reminder to never stop being that “excited Amy” who packs and repacks her “purse” as I get ready for school each day. We have an awesome job. Let’s celebrate it!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Best Start...

This was our first week of school. It was busy, exciting, and filled with positivity. On Thursday and Friday, I had a lot of different people come my way, and all said the same thing. “This has been the best start of the school year since you have been here!”  I quickly said thank you, but at first was taken aback by the statement. This is my third year at the school, so this is our third start together. Has it really been that bad in the past?

I will admit, the first student day three years ago was not my best. Within 30 minutes of starting, the school was in a non-emergency lockdown due to a disgruntled person in the parking lot making threats. And dismissal was a disaster, as I was trying to roll-out a new dismissal procedure on the first day of school and I did not do a very good job making sure all parents knew what was happening. Lesson learned. So, I do admit, the first student day I was in the building was not the best. And along with that, I was new to the building and was sharing my vision. My staff didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. There was definite anxiety with the excitement at the start of school that year. I was following a well-liked and good school principal, who literally started that school in 2001. He had been the first and only building principal before I entered the doors. So, we were supportive of each other as we got to know one another. Nevertheless, it was a tough start. But, my staff stayed with me, and that year, we built trust and communication throughout the school.

Last year, our first student day was much better. We knew what to expect of each other. There were a lot of initiatives going on, so I know my staff was overwhelmed with it all. Along with that, our incoming kindergarten class was large, and so we knew we had a lot of routines to learn. The beauty was that all my staff was returning with only a couple exceptions, and so we built on what we started in the first year. Together, we redefined our purpose and direction through one of the most exciting collaborative discussions I have been a part of in the past few years. We established stronger procedures together, created more in-house professional development opportunities and discussions, which led to 3 summer book studies. It was a fantastic school year with abundant growth opportunities for both staff and students.

This leads me to this school year. We only have a couple staff changes again, so we are building our third year together as a team. The first staff day was one of the most positive exchanges I have experienced. We did team-building exercises and shared our common, collective vision. We all agreed on our goals for the school year, supporting one another to build a strong school community and reclaim the joy of education within our school. There was so much positive energy during our first staff meeting that the room physically became quite hot! The first staff days were exhausting, but adrenaline was pumping so high, the positivity could be felt everywhere in the school. And the first student day was exactly the same! Our students walked in excited, energized, and the routines fell into place very quickly. It has been outstanding! Our dedicated staff, parents, and students made this the best start of our school. Their hard work and preparations made a difference, but I know it was that vibe when walking into the school that had the biggest impact. The positive, welcoming, and energetic vibe has truly set the tone for an amazing school year ahead.

So, after a couple days of reflection, I would also admit that this start to our school year has been the best yet. Digging deep, I ask the question, why? Why has this been the best start yet? It all comes down to one element, but a very powerful one - our school culture.

I remember back to the days when I was working on my master’s degree in educational leadership, and my mentor shared with me that it takes at least three years to build and/or change a school culture. This is not to say the school culture I entered was bad, but I’m a different person, and so with it I bring a different culture to build. I have been fortunate to have a supportive administrative team and an amazing staff who have stayed with me during these changes in the past couple years. My staff has shared their thoughts and ideas to taking our school and our students into the future, and it is exciting to be a part of these changes! It has truly been a team effort, built over time, with open doors and conversations.

The start is important, but the journey is lasting. We did not let the first start determine our journey. We kept the vision at the forefront, and continued to have conversations to drive us toward the future of our school. We built communication and trust, empowering teams and collaboration to become the norm in everyday interactions. This takes time. And the ultimate compliment this week was, “This was the best start of the school year since you have been here.” Our school culture meshed, came together with all of our routines and procedures, but more importantly, it was our vision and positivity, coming together for our students on the first days of school. That energy that has pulsated throughout every classroom has been transformative. This is the ultimate reward.  

Our journey has been great, and the adventure ahead will be even more exciting. Thank you to my staff, our parents, and the awesome students of our school for making this the best start since I have had the privilege of being the principal and lead learner at Ryan Park Elementary!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015


The Lesson
It was 10:30, and way past bedtime. But, it was Friday evening, and they just finished watching one of their favorite Pixar movies, Brave. I told them that it was time to go to bed, but their dad had a different idea. “Boys, come here. I have something to show you first.” Intrigued, we all gathered around him at the bottom of the stairs.

“All of you need your iPads.” What was this all about? The boys rushed to the charging station, grabbed their iPads, and ran back to their dad, eager to see what was in store. He proceeded to show them a new app, Skyview, that he put on all of their iPads without them knowing it. “A long time ago, people used the stars to find their way to get places. Through this app, we can learn about the constellations they used. Let’s go outside to see them!”

Out they went, iPads in hand, dark night sky, the stars above. Each little guy pointed their iPad to the sky, and the constellations illuminated on their iPads. The next 30 minutes were filled with awe and excitement, the faces of discovery lighting the night. There are no words to describe the faces of wonder as they discovered planets, the patterns of the stars, and how space was all around us. Countless moments of “Look at this!” and “What is this thing?” were shared. Mom and Dad moved among the boys, answering questions, pointing to objects, describing what they were seeing on their screens.

In our living room, an impromptu astronomy lesson took shape. We grabbed a globe, I stood as the sun, and my boys learned about the term orbit, the planets that orbit the sun, and the other objects that fly through space. And when our astronomy lesson was over, the boys rushed back to their iPads, finding the orbits and horizon on their screen, beginning to understand the great space around them. Inevitably, it was time for bed, but the wheels were still turning in their heads, and science just got very cool and real.

Wonder & Discovery
There were no standards posted. No textbook sitting around. We didn’t create a hanger mobile or hand out a worksheet with the planets. We are not going to take a test and analyze the data. Dad had a learning experience in store - discover what constellations are - and my children took that experience to a new level. He certainly did not intend for me to tear his “lesson” apart, he simply wanted his children to explore.

This experience would not have been as amazing as what it was without the technology in each of their hands. It definitely would not have been as powerful as it was if he had showed them pictures in a book or pointed to the sky to talk about it.

The key to this experience was my children’s ability to explore on their own, ask their own questions, wonder and discover on their own, with us by their side the entire time. A tool enhanced the experience, and peaked their interest even more with its vivid images and descriptions. The app could have very easily been used in a different way, modeled by one with direct explanation as a whole group. Instead, the tool was quickly shared, and the power rested in the hands of the children, giving them time to explore and discover, building questions and facilitating discussion. These are the moments, the authentic experiences, that are remembered and treasured. And these are the experiences we need more of in our schools.

How can we build more wonder in our classrooms? How can we create experiences of exploration and discovery on a greater scale?

Today, our schools are often driven by standards and testing accountability. Our curriculums are still founded in the pace and topics of textbooks. And while these elements are not necessarily terrible, our entire purpose in education has been driven by them rather than the wonder of our kids.

We provide experiences for our students to discover and explore topics, and the important piece of this is to get out of the way! Today, many of our children have tools in their hands to explore and wonder, inquire and discover, and it is our role to now stand aside and let this happen. With simple reframing of our classrooms, the content can come to life in their hands, and we simply guide them through it. Imagine the discussion and motivation within a classroom where the students are continually discovering, not just being “told” what is and was and what will be.

Our roles as educators need to change to facilitator, not expert. Build a community of self-guided learners and the standards and testing will take care of itself. Allow children to inquire and explore, and we have built life-long learners, not compliant workers seeking the one and only right answer.

There are so many TOOLS. It is through our approach that wonder and discovery can be the norm in our classrooms.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Smarter & Harder

During a workshop a few years ago, it was shared that we, as educators, need to work smarter, not harder. I took this phrase to heart, because I always felt I was working so hard, spinning my wheels, and it was time for me to get smarter about the work I was doing with my students.

Flash forward to today, with reflection after reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, his passion for teaching seeping through every page, and I’m beginning to think this phrase does not hold true for me. It sounds great, but the reality is, educators are working smarter and harder than ever before. We are doing both, simultaneously, because as Burgess says, “This is a tough business…” We are aiming for this magic bullet that will make everything easier, but in reality, there are no easy ways to reach all kids so that they can be successful. It is hard work, persistent work, but work that is so rewarding in the end. It takes smart work, building upon various strategies, techniques, and using multiple tools in order to help those students be successful. It is not one more than the other. We are all working smarter and harder for our kids to be successful.

From an educator’s perspective, this is time and not pay. Teachers did not get into this profession for the pay. If they did, they chose the wrong career. There is time to develop plans, to create the learning activities, to attend professional development to better themselves, to meet with team members to solve the issues of the day. Time to collaborate with colleagues on the data results and manipulate the curriculum so that skills can be addressed again. It is challenge daily. It is more than 180 days a year and more than 8 hours a day. For the enthusiastic educator, time is worth it. Their student’s success is payment enough.

To passionate educators, our smarter and harder living is the ultimate reward. It is uplifting to watch a child figure out the sounds of a word and light up when they read it for the first time correctly. Or when a child figures out how to manipulate the problem to find the answer. Or when a student who often struggled walks across the stage to receive his diploma. These are the moments we live for. These are the moments that all the smart and hard work pays off. We do this for our students, not for us. I am not in this field for the time on the clock or any kind of awards or compliments. Our students' success is our WHY we do what we do.

Here is the reality:
There are no shortcuts in our educational system. If there were, we would have found it by now. Teaching is hard. Change is hard. Teamwork is hard. Learning is hard. And we are all being smart about it. We are applying the best strategies and ideas we know in order to engage our students in authentic work and learning opportunities. We are working together today more than ever before, collaborating and sharing ideas and techniques to make our schools the best place we can for kids. It is “get in the trenches and get your hands dirty” work. Light bulbs turn on and rainbows appear when that smart and hard work has paid off for our students. Walt Disney said, “We work hard to do the best job possible.”

The negativity that resides within our education system is depending on the “work less and get the same or better results” attitude. But this isn’t going to happen. It is time to change the outlook of education to see ALL of the amazing benefits of this work. The best and most effective educators are those who work smart and hard all of the time. They are relentless in their pursuit to help kids. They are not taking the easy road, but the high road that is riddled with bumps and bruises. They are not afraid to take risks and make mistakes so that they may see their students flourish.

Furthermore, our students will work as hard and as smart as we do. Their tenacity will come through as we persist in our efforts to be more creative and collaborative, offering amazing learning opportunities for them. We cannot take a backseat or try to accomplish a task in a easier way and expect the same results from our students. They are watching all that we do. And so, it is important for us to lead by example, to model what we expect from our students. I know it is not easy. However, our students will prosper when we put forth the effort necessary.

To the new educators out there, please know this. Teaching and learning is hard work. And done with your smarts, your students will reap the rewards of your work. There are no easy solutions. But working smarter and harder together, we can change this arena for the betterment of all and our future generations will benefit.

I am proud to be an educator.
I am proud to be a teacher.
I am proud to be a learner.
I am proud to be a principal.
I am proud to be a lead learner.

Our students deserve our very best. They deserve our creativity, our ability to communicate effectively, and our collaborative efforts as a team to make the best opportunities for them so that they can be the future they want for themselves.

No more excuses.
No more complaining.

The work we do today will have lasting influence for those in our classrooms. There is so much good and amazing in education. The changes taking place and the passion found in educators around the world is contagious. Their influence is far-reaching beyond the walls of their schools. Their smarter and harder work shows. Our students' success is the affirmation we receive to continue the smarter and harder work needed to build the schools our children deserve for their future.

“We’re skyrocketing forward into an educational landscape that is changing every day. In these exciting times, we must be ready to take on the challenge of redefining greatness for a whole new generation of teachers and students.” -Burgess, page 148, Teach Like a Pirate

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Inner Drive

I’m a workaholic. I admit it. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a course or a support group out there that would fit into my schedule! It is the summer, and while it is time to rest and get some much-needed projects completed around the house, I find this to be a fantastic time to rejuvenate another way - through my own learning and professional projects. For me, the summer is a mixture of great family time, home projects and cleaning, and my professional growth.

Professional learning is ongoing at all points in the year, but the summer is my time to read many books and reflect, while also exploring more research and ideas than I have time for during the school year. So, here is my to-do list.

  • Hang out with the boys & my husband (A LOT!!!)
  • Visit family from out of town
  • Clean the house, wash windows, catch up on yardwork
  • 6 books to read
  • Study for the GRE and hopefully take it - I’m going to be starting my PhD in the fall of 2016
  • Facilitate 3 summer book studies for staff
  • Blog at least once a week
  • Complete Google Educator Certification, at least the first level
  • Prepare for the IntegratED Conference - co-organizer
  • Attend Google EdCamp
  • EdCamp Global facilitator of 2 sessions
  • Prepare flipped staff videos for the start of school
  • Prepare district administrator leadership academy presentation
  • Paint 3 areas in our house
  • Twitter, Voxer, and a little more Twitter...

I don't strive to complete all of this because I HAVE to. I do it because I WANT to.

At some point, a few would say I am supposed to “rest and relax”, but for me, I enjoy this. I’m not creating this list for accolades or acknowledgement. This is simply my list to do, and it includes all of the things I enjoy doing. I make the time for them, not because I have to, but because I want to.

In reading the book, Drive by Daniel Pink, I’m intrigued by what he calls the third drive, our inner drive. I suppose this is what drives me. I don’t get paid for any of the items on my list. I don’t need to do any of these items. If I decided not to, it wouldn’t hurt my job in any way. I’ve made the choice TO work on these items, whether I complete all of them or not, to better myself. I want to be the best in what I do, and by learning, reflecting, and growing, I feel I am working toward this. I also fully know that I will never be the best, but my goal is to continually strive to be better for my family and my school.

Summer is my opportunity for complete autonomy over my tasks, and I have the time to do it. I am self-directed in these goals, and I personally set them. These are the keys to what Pink describes as "Motivation 3.0". I truly see the power in our inner drive. I am excited to wake up each day, preparing for what I want to accomplish, and making it happen.

Wouldn't this idea be exciting to see all year round? During the school year, this concept is secluded to nights and weekends. And while I absolutely love what I do as the lead learner and principal of my school and interacting with students, teachers, and parents, I also typically do not have a lot of time to devote to my own "projects" or research during the school day. I keep these items for home at night after the kids are in bed and on the weekends. But, what if we, meaning all school staff and students, were given time each day during the school day, to explore our passions and projects like what I typically strive toward during the summer? What if we incorporated more of this 80/20 business model into our school days for staff AND students to explore their passions? It wouldn't be done "for a grade" or "for professional growth points". It would be time to explore whatever we wanted, no strings attached.

I know that some schools are doing this 80/20 model, giving digital badges or completing professional growth portfolios with this work. I know it can be done, and it is happening on a bigger scale each year due to the work of amazing educators giving it a try. Look at Genuis Hour, particularly the recent book by fellow Hoosier Don Wettrick, and Eric Sheninger’s description of the Professional Growth Period in his book Digital Leadership. Look at the growing trend of MakerSpaces, where students create their own creations. Yet, I would love to see a system-wide change, where this is not unique but the norm in schools. With a system-wide change, all individuals would take part, not just teachers and not just students.  The norm is exploration, research, personal projects, seeking self-directed professional and personal growth.

I am struck wondering what the tipping point will be for this idea? At what point will our inner drive no longer be satisfied during our "free time", and want to be developed at all times? With so many passionate and inspiring educators out there who are already dedicating much of their time to their own growth for the betterment of their students and schools during their summer, school nights, and weekends, I'm sure we can find a way for Motivation 3.0 to take hold in our schools and drive us forward. We have wonderful models happening in schools right now with innovation periods, professional growth periods, and MakerSpaces. Now it is time to take it to a new level, spreading it throughout ALL schools like wildfire!

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