Sunday, January 29, 2017

Something New

I love the excitement that comes with something new. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation and thrill that the mind and body experiences during a new event or activity.

Take my youngest son for instance. His first wrestling tournament was just a couple of weeks ago. He was literally counting down the days for an entire week.

“Is it our wrestling tournament tomorrow?” he would ask multiple times a day.

“No buddy. It is on Sunday. Just a few more days away,” I would reply.

On the morning of the tournament, he woke up without a fuss. He got ready without multiple prompts. And, as we waited for the brackets to be posted, he was right along side his brothers and teammates, warming up, taking it all in. This little 35-pounder had enough adrenaline rushing through him to hand it off to others who needed it. And I love every second of it.

I think about his excitement in this tournament and the excitement we bring to school each and every day. This is how we want our students to walk into school every single day. Anticipation and thrill for what is to come. What learning will happen? And how will it take place?

I think of a recent activity that was done with our 3rd graders. A parent and professor at our local university brought in water and clay so that students could learn about how boats float. Hands-on excitement. The students were not sure what they were about to experience, but you could feel that buzz in the air. Purposeful exploration and making. When I walked into the cafeteria, students were in full swing. There are no words to describe the conversation about how to mold the clay so that it would float in water. The pictures could not capture the jubilation when their “boat” did float. Problem-solving. Thinking. Intentional creating. Trial and error. And failure was not devastating. It was an opportunity to try again without worry or criticism. Labels were eliminated and every child was on an even-playing field. Awesome learning.

So the question is, are these moments or excitement, trying something new, limited to random opportunities? Are these opportunities solely created every once in awhile?

I do agree that it takes quite a bit of time to develop these kinds of learning opportunities. But, I believe it is worth it. I believe it is worth it to take time and create these units, activities, lessons, where discovery happens more often than not. We need to give teachers time make this happen. We need discovery and inquiry to be the norm.

We need to be intentional about building experiences for students to learn within. Worksheets aren’t experiences. Test prep isn’t an experience. These are chores. Experiences stick with us. We remember them, relate to them, refer back to them. Learning is an experience, and for educators, it is our duty to ensure our students are experiencing their learning.

However, this will not just happen by talking about it. I can write about it until my fingers hurt, but that will not make it happen. The resources are out there. There are teachers and schools who do this. Let’s share even more. Let’s carve time even more and make this “something new”, this excitement an everyday part of school.

No fuss getting out of bed. Only, “I wonder what we will be doing with our learning today?”

Monday, January 16, 2017

My 3 Hats

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We all wear various hats. These hats define our task at hand. It may be a work hat or a home hat. With that hat comes the responsibilities underneath it. At any moment, our hats change, rising in priority according to the time of day or issue at hand. There might even be hats within those hats that determine our immediate role or responsibility. We all have hats.

My hats are no different than any other, but I feel compelled to write about them since I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my hats and when and how I wear them. My hats define who I am, bringing different perspectives into what I do. This is not ground-breaking material. Just the reflective story of my three hats.

I am a mom of 3 boys, a hat I wear proudly.  I wear this hat 24/7/365. It never comes off. They are all boy, involved in sports and other activities, keeping them busy. When we are not at practices or games, my boys play, rough-house, and fight like brothers. Sometimes my mom hat is more of a referee hat, but it is one of those roles within the mom hat.

The best part of being a mom is watching them grow and learn on a daily basis. There is no replacement for the look that comes my way during t-ball practice after a great hit. Or the smile that comes after a music program showing the pride that comes from accomplishment. Or the question that spurs a conversation about our favorite team. Or the hug of reassurement that finds its way into my arms after a tough day.

Being a mom is awesome. It is not all giggles and smiles, as there are tough conversations and learning that comes with being a parent. Our fun family adventures never cease to bore!

Another hat I wear daily is the hat of being a wife. My husband is my best friend. He is my sounding board, someone I have fun with, can be serious with, and who shares similar passions as me. We have been married for nearly 17 years, and each day is still an adventure. While we can easily get on each other’s nerves, we know when to walk away and leave the other alone. We know when to help one another. I am here for him, just as he is here for me. We make a great team. We each have to make sacrifices at particular times, and that is what our good marriage understands and respects.

He is a high school principal and is often gone to events. His days are long, and so that leaves my mom and wife hat on at the same times many days. I love my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My other hat is one I wear proudly as well, and that is of an educator/principal/lead learner. My daily quest is full of opportunity, different tasks and activities. Let’s just say, it is never dull, as I never know what the day will bring my way! I humbled by the responsibility on my shoulders, but also fully believe in those around me, the leadership of those around me as we have an awesome task at hand - educating the next generation.

This hat too stays on, or close by 24/7/365. I never know when duty may call. It is at 5:30 in the morning finding a sub for a sick teacher. It is at 9:30 at night responding to a parent email. It is on the weekend, reading a leadership book or working on tasks for the next week. It is during the summer, attending a conference to learn in order to share with others. This hat has multiple hats within it, from learner, leader, disciplinarian, coach, counselor. But all reside under this one hat.

All of my hats are never set aside. One may sit on top of the other at various times in the day, but they are always both there.

I once had someone ask me, “How do you balance it all?” I really am not sure how to answer that, other than, “I just do.” I don’t think of anything I do as a balance, however. Balance doesn’t exist in these three hats. Does that make me a bad mom, wife, or principal?

We often compare ourselves with others in our abilities. But each one of us is dealing with the cards we are dealt and create the best we can from them. I have battled with this for a while. How do others do it? Am I doing anything wrong? Am I giving all the people in my life what they need from me, or am I burning myself out?

It probably is not fair to my boys to take that phone call from a teacher during our dinner time. But it also would not be right for me to ignore my staff either. It is what it is, and how we handle those circumstances determines how well we wear and juggle those hats we take on in our lives.

I love my three hats. Each day is an adventure. I believe my three hats make me who I am, give me the perspective I have in order to be the person I am within those hats. Are these hats easy? NO. But they are definitely worth every moment I can give.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Heart - #OneWord2017


The courage and strength to push forward. Believing in oneself. Conviction and determination. Passion in purpose.

This may not be the true definition of “HEART”, but to me in 2017, it is the definition my #OneWord that I will focus my energies toward. Heart.

2016 was not an easy year for me. In fact, it is one that tested my inner strength in many ways.

Everything around me was progressing and thriving in 2016. We moved to a new house. My boys had great school years and were growing and changing in great ways. Our school accomplished some awesome and amazing feats in curriculum and instruction with our power standards and common assessments, and we built a Makerspace! In this sense, 2016 was an awesome year.

Yet, I’ve been troubled inside, trying to find my way and my purpose. I have no idea what triggered my inner struggles. I just know it has been there. On the outside, I was focused, determined, and energized, but on the inside, I was just the opposite. I saw the passion and purpose of others. I saw their strengths. Daily, my students and staff were outstanding. My PLN was continually inspiring. But, at every turn, I questioned myself.

I forgot to take care of myself, draining the life right out of me. I forgot my inner strength. I stopped believing in myself and my abilities as a leader. I doubted my every turn. It became unhealthy. And then, I stopped writing and conversing with my PLN. I stopped reading. I became quiet because I didn’t believe in what I had to offer anymore. I began comparing myself with others.

I have wondered if other leaders have gone through these feelings before. But instead of reaching out to them, I kept to myself. I poured everything I did have left into my family and my school, but something was definitely missing. I wondered if I could find the inner strength, the inner belief, the inner passion to pull myself back. I wanted it. I couldn’t rely on others to pull it back for me. This had to come from within me.

With winter break, I have had a lot of time to think and I started pondering my #OneWord for 2017. So many words to choose from that could bring me back to who I really am. Yet, I still struggled. Then, Christmas Eve, it hit me, like it always does, surrounded by my family.

We were baking cookies for Santa. The boys were “helping”, and I was simply enjoying this most meaningful time with them. Treasured moments.

My oldest asked, “Mom, is there really a Santa, or is it you?” I was clearly taken aback. My little 6-year-old can’t hear this! My next words were so important and would define our next 24 hours.
“Alex, I believe. I believe in Santa because of what Santa believes in. He believes in the good in the world. He believes in the children of the world, and they are good, and he brings them gifts of love to share.”

I knew after I said all of that, he was still skeptical. But my other 2 boys jumped in to say they believed in Santa and then went on to share which cookie they would leave out for him that night.

The next morning was pure excitement. We all believed in the magic. We were the magic of that day.  We played together. Built together. Cooked dinner together. Our day was filled with so much heart. We poured ourselves into each moment, and at that point, I felt it coming back. I felt the passion in my purpose as an educator and as a leader. My heart was filled with strength, in believing in all around me, and in myself.

In 2017, I will pursue all my quests and journeys with heart. My heart. Who I am, the person I believe to be. The inner strength that I create. The determination and conviction in all I do. The courage to take risks. My passion for what I believe in shining through every step of the way. While I may still question myself, I will do so in a healthy way, not filled with self-doubt.

With this renewed spirit and pouring my heart into all I do, I will continue to lead by example, building our team, inspiring others to pursue their passions. I want to be the best educator for kids, the best leader for my team. I want to be the best mom for my kids, the best wife for my husband. I give my heart to others through the life I live and lead. What I forgot was that those around me fill my heart with so much, giving me the strength and the belief to carry on and take on the next challenges that I may face.

I will lead with HEART. Be who I am with HEART. Believe in the strength of myself and all of those around me. More than ever before, my HEART will drive me in all I do in 2017!

PS - To my PLN - If I grow quiet, wake me up by reminding me of my heart!