Thursday, June 22, 2017

I Forgot His Birthday

Every day is filled with lessons in leadership. This day was no exception.

It was the second to last day of school, a Monday. The day was going to be filled with celebrations and activities. The weekend had been a busy one. I was at a basketball tournament in Ohio with the boys, which was fun. But typically, I take a few moments over the weekend to reflect and plan for the week ahead, however that didn’t happen since we were so busy with games and traveling. So, as I drove into school, I walked through the schedule of the day, all the places I wanted to be sure to stop by and see.

The morning started well, everything falling into place. The bell rang for school to begin, so I took my post in the office to read the announcements. I prepare the announcements a day in advance - one less thing to think about in the morning. The kids were all ready for the announcements, in their places to say the pledge for the whole school, when I looked down at the announcement paper and saw it. My youngest son was celebrating his summer birthday today and I forgot all about it.

Tears began to well in my eyes. I’m such a terrible mom. It was on our refrigerator. I had it marked on the calendar. My secretary saw the horror in my eyes, gave me a reassuring chuckle, and I pulled myself together for the kids in front of me, sharing the announcements with the school in my cheery voice.

When the announcements were finished, I quickly retreated to my office and broke down in tears. The world around me was spinning, my focus on everything but what really mattered. I forgot my son’s birthday celebration.

After pulling myself together, I quickly texted my husband to see if he was available to run to the store to pick up treats. No luck. Then, I texted his teacher to see when they were going to celebrate his birthday, trying to figure out in between the assembly celebrations and programs when I could possibly get to the store to pick up treats. His teacher texted me back with an early afternoon time, so I had a short window to make it happen. She shared, “He told me he didn’t have his treats, but also said that he knows his mom didn’t forget and the treats are in your office.” Wow, I’m glad HE had faith in me!

The celebration assemblies came and went, and I scurried away to pick up treats for the class. They were in my office at just the right time for my little guy to pick up, and so he never knew the true story. Crisis averted.

In the grand scheme of things, the situation is rather minor. However, this experience still sits with me, even after school is out and all has settled a bit. It sits with me because it was a very important lesson for me to realize. You can never be your best for others or be able to take care of others the way you need to if you do not take care of yourself first.

As a leader, I want to do all I can to take care of the people around me. I know that if I do this, they will be better for those they serve, our students. I want to ensure all the ducks are in a row, giving my staff less to worry about so they can focus on the students. As a mom and wife, I aim to do the same. Take care of it so others don’t have to worry about it.

The problem is I never gave myself time to stop. Every person has to stop to rest their mind, reflect, and rejuvenate. Without whitespace, we are not of clear mind to make good decisions or ensure we are our best for others. If all we do is fill the buckets of others but never fill our own buckets, then our bucket will run dry at some point. If our bucket is dry, then we have no more to give. I determined I was at that point.

Thankfully, all was resolved that day and my son didn’t have a clue what had happened. Minor issue that was resolved without too much trouble. However, there may come a circumstance that doesn’t end as well, and it will all be due to my absent-mindedness caused by a lack of necessary whitespace.

It is critical as leaders that we rejuvenate and recharge. It is imperative that we take time for ourselves, filling our own buckets, so that we can be our best for others. We need to fill those buckets often, not just during breaks or weekends. People depend on us, and I want those around me to know they can count on me at all times. And so, this summer, I plan to rejuvenate and fill my bucket, but also make a change so that I can continue this practice in order to be my best for others all days of the year.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

We Are Each Other's Best Teachers

Earlier today, I gave my very first Ignite speech! It was exciting, but my anxiety definitely took over at a few points, and so as I reflect, I continue to feel that my 5 minutes of talking did not do the topic justice. This is something I am passionate about, and therefore, I am going to do what I feel I do best - write about it!

We Are Each Other’s Best Teachers
We are each other’s best teachers. Right? I love educational conferences and workshops. Honestly, I am addicted to learning. I enjoy attending conferences and workshops, learning from expert educators in the field, as well as fellow local educators who have something amazing to share. Educators would not go to conferences if we didn’t love learning new ideas and strategies! But these are events, and these events only happen a few times per year for most people. They are great when they happen, but they are isolated, scheduled on particular days, with particular presentations. We walk away with great ideas, but often so many ideas that we cannot effectively implement any of it well.

However, through my years of experience, I also know that my teachers have great ideas, activities that they use in their classrooms and successes to share with it. At Ryan Park Elementary, we know there are experts all around us in various topics. So, we build intentional opportunities to share, collaborate, and learn from each other. In essence, we are teaching each other, coaching each other. Through gallery walks or making Monday meaningful with voluntary PD after school led by our very own, we teach each other.

So, if teachers have amazing ideas to share, and we must tap into each other’s ideas so that we can be our best for our kids, then are our four walls all there is out there? No way! There is a world of educators out there, ready to share and ready to learn, sharing their expertise in what we do. We help each other grow. Connections matter, and so why not tap into this global collaboration? If we are each other’s best teachers, then we need to build those connections, creating our professional learning network, growing and learning whenever we need it or want it.

The beauty of social media, like Twitter, is on demand learning and sharing. It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year learning and sharing. But here is the thing. I’m guessing most of us know this. So, my question is, why aren’t more of us actively on social media sharing, learning, and growing from each other? We need a learning revolution. We need to take charge of our own learning, not just through conferences a few times per year, but on demand, when we want it and need it.

I have met some of my closest educator friends on Twitter and Voxer. I listen and chat with them daily, and they push me to be the best I can be as an educator. They inspire me in who I am, and I can honestly say that I have become a better educator because of them. These are people I have never met face to face. However, I know them as if I worked beside them daily. My PLN continually pushes me to be better, and I hope I can do the same for them through my sharing as well.

I challenge all educators to grow their PLN, making it the inspiration needed daily, not just for cool ideas and activities, but also for the emotional and mental boost every educator needs.  Use hashtags. Take part in a Twitter chat. There is literally a chat for everyone. And grow friends around the globe.

We cannot wait for it to come to our door. The world doesn’t know what I need. I do. We must seek it. We must go after it. Educators need to build time every day, even if it is just 5 minutes, to reach out, share a great idea for the day, and grab one from someone for themselves.

The biggest question of all is this. Why? Why take time from our busy day to reach out, share on Twitter or Voxer, take part in a Twitter chat, and learn something new? Because our kids matter, and therefore OUR learning matters. When our learning take the forefront, we are better for our kids. We model learning for them, become better for them, and share the greatness that is working for us with others, helping ALL kids. We are each other’s best teachers, and we need to take control of our learning, expanding our collaborative reach, building the greatest network of learners ever created.

We are educators, doing all we can to help our kids be successful. With followers and those we follow, we grow and learn from each other, and we are experts at what we do on a daily basis.  We love it when the lightbulb lights up for kids. So, let’s do that for each other. Let’s be each other’s best resource, not relying on a few times per year, but focusing our efforts on daily, on-demand learning that will benefit everyone. We are each other’s best teachers!