Friday, August 19, 2016

Namaste

This summer, I have been participating in a weekly Yoga class. My wife had been going regularly and I had been curious about it. Both for the physical benefits and for the opportunity to try something new, I told her I wanted to join her for the class. She thought I was joking at first, but I told her that I had wanted to for some time, but just hadn't been able to fit it into my schedule. I have a very difficult time "turning off" my mind and I thought this would help me learn to focus and relax.  The first class was something that I really enjoyed. Partly because it was completely new to me and partly from the relaxing and inspiring manner of the leader. He led the class with directions, phrases of wisdom, and most of all, continuous encouragement. The second class was actually more difficult, probably because I was focusing more on actually getting some of the poses correct. The classes continued to help me throughout the summer and ironically I ended up going to yoga more than my wife did. I took away three important lessons that I could apply to education and to my life.

Breathe: It sounds silly, but we need to be reminded to breathe sometimes. Not the automatic function of our bodies, but thoughtful deep breathing that is controlled. It's amazing how a few deep breaths can alter our state of mind. They can help diffuse stress and anger and they can also help energize our bodies. We often tell children when they are upset to take a deep breathe. We should heed our own advice and take deep and measured breathes during our day to help our body and mind relax. A good educator knows how to self-regulate.

Balance: In Yoga, we certainly worked on balance by practicing the various poses. It reminded of my wrestling days and the focus on maintaining good balance. However, we also focused on balance for life as well. Is there balance between your mind and body? Is there peace and harmony within? Heavy stuff, but the more we are conscious of it, the sooner we can find that balance. Every educator knows the importance of balance (work/life, structure/nurturing, play/work). I've written about the importance of balance in many posts and a successful educator will find that balance in order to be healthy and productive.

Be in the Moment: This is a hard one for me. I'm constantly thinking about what will happen next and sometimes about what has already happened. I struggle to be in the moment and just enjoy living. Yoga class was great for this. I learned in my first session that wearing my Fitbit was a mistake. I was continually tempted to check the time. I now go in without it and just forget about everything else while I'm in class. There is a great sense of freedom when I can actually just focus on the moment and what I'm doing right then. As educators, this is something that we need to be able to do and also teach our students to do as well.

Each Yoga session ends with a salutation from the instructor: Namaste. It's an ancient word that means "The spirit in me, salutes the spirit in you." What a beautiful way to end each session and a wonderful reminder that we are all equal and that we honor one another. My hope is to apply these lessons at school and in my life and remember to enjoy each moment and help others find their balance and joy as well.

photo credit: yogahyde.com

PEARLS OF WISDOM

"Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness." - Indra Devi

"Yoga is just good for you!" - Kareem Abdul Jabbar

"Yoga is almost like music in a way; there's no end to it." - Sting


What is your hope for your students? (3 minutes) 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Tuesday, August 30: 8:00-11:00 Building PD @ Rosedale / 12:30-3:30 5 Dimensions @ Churchill
Wednesday, August 31: 8:00-11:35 Level Up 3.0 with special guest George Couros @Churchill / 1:00-3:30 Priority Project Training @ Saint Mary's Cultural Center
Thursday, September 1: Teacher Work Day

Tuesday, September 6: First day for students with 12:10 dismissal
Thursday, September 8: PTA meeting at 6:30 pm

Thursday, September 15: Open House 6:00-6:30 / Curriculum Night 6:30-7:00 pm

Monday, August 8, 2016

Less is More

When I was younger, I never liked the phrase "less is more". Less is not more, actually less is less. Isn't that the point? Less stuff, less talk, less noise. However, the "more" is referring to the impact or the focus. With less stuff we have more appreciation for what we have. With less talk we have more action. With less noise we can tune into what's important. I'm a firm believer in "less is more" as an adult.

Recently at a MEMSPA Leadership Matters session, we focused on the topic of taking the clutter out of our offices. I had already learned the value of reducing (or eliminating) messages in my email inbox from my Google Certification training. I had already eliminated much of my paperwork in the office (I'm not paperless yet). Yet, my office was still cluttered with items that reflect my personality. Pictures of my family, autographed pictures of William Shatner and other childhood heroes, and you guessed it, Superman memorabilia. Now, in my defense, many of the items in my office are gifts from former and current staff members, students through the years, and my family. Twenty years in education has led to many Superman gifts. Hearing that my office needed to be a place where I could keep a laser focus on what I am about (educating students), I realized that it was time to trim down and live out "less is more".

Cleaning my office has been tough. Not because of the stuff, but because of the memories they represent and the image they project. I realized early on that I was never going to have a Spartan office area and that many of the items truly represented who am I and what I believe in. However, it still needed to be trimmed down. The coffee mug collection was traded in for one single mug. The numerous knickknacks were removed and replaced with a couple of special collector items. Autographed pictures of movie and television heroes were swapped  for educational books I have read or am reading. However, the Superman bookends still help keep the educational books in order. While I reduced a great deal, a few items were added like window pictures of educational philosophies and initiatives that reflect my vision for school.

I have accepted that I will never have an office that is as neat and tidy as I wish and I know that my office will always be a reflection of me and my varied interests. But I think the work of downsizing and prioritizing will help me narrow my focus on my mission of helping each child reach their full potential. I hope the changes will help students, staff, and parents understand that our destination is student success...and that it's okay to have a little fun along the way!

I'd like to state for the record that both my copies of "Teach Like a Pirate" are on loan:) 

PEARLS OF WISDOM

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may peak." - Hans Hofmann

"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." Henry David Thoreau

"I find that as you get older, you start to simplify things in general." - George Clooney

I have not read this, but my wife highly recommended it. It's on my "to read" list!



Monday, July 18, 2016

The Final Frontier

A few years ago, I had the chance to meet William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk). During an interview session with fans, one of the participants asked him what his favorite Star Trek movie was. His response surprised the crowd when he answered "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier". Now for those of you who may not be Trekkies, Star Trek V is universally considered one of the worst of the franchise's films. While there are many of moments of the film that I enjoy, the story line is shaky at best and it meanders its way through a search for paradise and an encounter with "God". The movie was panned by critics and they were especially hard on William Shatner who directed the film. So you can understand why we were surprised to hear him list this as his favorite of the films.

He expanded on his answer to the crowd by saying it was the film that he learned the most from. He had envisioned a story that would wrestle with the themes of life and death, heaven and hell, God and the devil. Bit by bit, the producers, the studio, and others chipped away at his ideas and some of his edgier themes and watered things down until at last the final product was a mediocre, middle of the road "adventure'. Shatner explained that he had conceded so much that in the end he hardly recognized his own product and in pleasing everyone he had produced a flop that pleased no one. In short, he learned from his failure and grew from the experience. He may not have known it, by the iconic Captain Kirk actor was demonstrating a growth mindset!

As educators, we receive many different "demands" in our profession. The pressure to cover curriculum, the obligation to perform ongoing assessments for our students, the restrictions we have due to budget. However, we need to hold true to our convictions of putting kids first! We need to remember that each child is unique, that each lesson is a means to spark curiosity, and each day is a chance to change a student's life. Let's take a lesson from William Shatner and remember to hold true to our vision and not compromise with our students. Continue to do what's best for kids and help them hold on to their dreams!
Me and the Big Guy! 

PEARLS OF WISDOM (From Captain Kirk)

"One of the advantages of being a captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.

"A little suffering is good for the soul."

"I don't believe in a no-win scenario." 

Original Trailer for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Learning from my (Many) Mistakes

This month, our Compelled Tribe blogging group took on the challenge of sharing out mistakes we have made as educators and how we learned from them. The challenge was inspired by Jon Harper's  interview with Starr Sackstein  on the BAM Radio Network called #MyBad.  Many of the stories that I've heard were from the first years in the classroom, but I didn't need to look back very far to find a mistake to write about. This was a difficult post to write, not in that I had to search hard for mistakes, but because it was still fresh and a bit raw.  It deals with focus and balance (or lack of both).

One of my greatest strengths has often been one of my biggest weaknesses. I'm passionate about everything. I love trying new things, taking on new projects, and even biting off more than I can chew at times. This year, I really branched out on many new projects in education. I went from being an active member in MEMSPA (Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association) to serving on the Board of Directors. I also joined the MEMSPA Leadership Matters cohort that meets for 8 weekends to develop leadership skills. I went from being a member of the Compelled Tribe to leading a group of my own. I joined the Michigan Ed Voice Fellowship and advocated for educators in our state capitol. I attended several conferences, met with speakers and authors, and I also did more professional reading this year than in any other year as principal. I exposed my staff to concepts like Genius Hour and Instructional Rounds. When asked by one of my teachers mid year how many committees most principals served on, I proudly said that the average was three, but I was on six. I didn't realize at the time that she was politely pointing out to me that I was not in the school as much as I had been in the past. Luckily for me, my secretary realized that I needed a more direct approach and told me bluntly (but politely) that the staff was suffering from my absence in the classrooms and even from the school. The same message came through in the staff surveys. While I scored very high in trust, respect, and integrity (the three most important things for me), I scored lower in dealing with things in a timely manner and providing support. This was a huge blow to me.

With all of my "initiatives" and activities designed to become a better leader, I had lost focus on my staff and our building. I had a new teacher that was really struggling with her classroom. There were discipline issues that were growing into real problems, because I had not worked closer with the teachers and the families. I had focused more on being a leader than actually leading and helping others. Luckily, I was able to heed the advice given and redoubled my efforts to support those who needed it and "Be There" for all my staff and students as we came back from spring break and finished the year on a good note.

Now, it wasn't all bad this year. We did some amazing things this year like flipping staff meetings to turn them into mini PD sessions. We implemented Celebrate Monday assemblies to start each week on a positive note. There was also more innovation in the classrooms this year than ever before, due to teachers taking chances and trying new things with technology. Overall, it was a good year, but I learned an important lesson. My focus needs to be on the students, staff, and building needs and not on me. Yes, I want to be a better leader and continue to grow, but I need to remember to find balance and how to prioritize. In the end, I'm only successful when my students and my teachers are successful.

photo credit: johngroberg.com

PEARLS OF WISDOM

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything." - John Wooden

"Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them." - Bruce Lee

"There are only two mistakes one can make along the road of truth; not going all the way, and not starting." - Buddha

Learning from Mistakes Video (3 minutes)



Thursday, June 30, 2016

Talkin' Bout My Generation

At a recent Rotary meeting, I heard a presentation on generational differences and their impact on the workplace.  It was a fascinating presentation and I did some more research on the web and thought I would share some of the things I learned.  First, I learned that the generation titles and years vary from source to source, but I've tried to consolidate them as best as I could to get the most agreed upon groups. Here are the four main generational groups and some of the key characteristics of each:

sources: WMFC and Career Planner

Silent (or Traditional) Generation: Percent of workplace 5%
Attributes: Committed to company, Competent, Conservative, Respectful of authority, Strong work ethic.
Preferred Work Environment: Hierarchal, Clear chain of command, Top-down management
Keys to Working With: Work is not meant to be fun, Follow rules and know procedures, Like the personal touch
Feedback and Rewards: No news is good news, Satisfaction is a job well done, Subtle and private recognition

Baby Boomers: Percent of workplace 45%
Attributes: Ability to handle a crisis, Competitive, Strong work ethic, Willing to take on responsibility
Preferred Work Environment: "Flat" organizational hierarchy, Democratic, Equal opportunity
Keys to Working With: Want to know their ideas matter, Do well in teams, Want to know why things matter and how they fit into the big picture, Careers often define them
Feedback and Rewards: Title recognition, May display awards and certificates of recognition, Enjoy monetary rewards, Enjoy public recognition

Generation X: Percent of workplace 40%
Attributes: Adaptable, Independent, Focus on results, Self-starters, Strong work/life balance
Preferred Work Environment: Fun and positive, Efficient, Informal
Keys to Working With: Want independence in the workplace, Allow to have fun at work, Give them the latest technology
Feedback and Rewards: Freedom/time off is best reward, Like specific feedback and coaching but prefer a hands-off supervisory style

Millennials (Generation Y): Percent of workplace 10%
Attributes: Global way of thinking, fiercely independent, loyal to peers, respect given to competency not title, techno savvy
Preferred Work Environment: Collaborative, Highly creative, Diverse, Fun, Want continuous feedback
Keys to Working With: Interactive work environment, Want to work with friends, Provide rational for work you've asked them to do and the value it adds, Provide variety
Feedback and Rewards: Communicate frequently and give feedback often, Be clear with goals and expectations

I tried to narrow the information down to workplace information specifically.  I realize that these definitions and descriptions are broad-based and do not apply to all people that fall into these generational groups.  Notice that each generation brings with it their own set of positive attributes and unique contributions to the workplace!  It shows that there is no "right or wrong" way to look at the workplace, but rather that our generational experiences color the way we perceive things and influence the ways we are motivated and interact at work.  As educators, it's important for us to realize the differences in the workplace generations, because we may have several different generations on our school team (district, building, and grade level teams).  It's also important to understand that our students (and the parents of our students) may be motivated by different factors than we are.  The more we understand what each generation brings to the table, the better we can collaborate as a staff and the better we can serve the youngest generation...our students!

Just because it's a fun song (and video:)

PEARLS OF WISDOM

"Coming generations will learn equality from poverty, and love from woes." - Khalil Gibran

"
Isn't it a shame that future generations can't be here to see all the wonderful things we're doing with their money?" - Earl Wilson

"The reason people blame things on previous generations is that there's only one other choice." - Doug Larson