Thursday, January 14, 2016

Seeing Red

I mentioned earlier that my "theme" for this year would be gratitude and I would be remiss if I didn't mention a colleague and friend that has helped make me become a better principal throughout the years. There is a saying that when two people always agree in business then both people aren't necessary. The point being that without different views and competent people to challenge our thinking, we don't grow as professionals. Luckily for me, I had someone right from the start who pushed me, challenged me, and supported me and still does so today.

My first principal assignment happened to be in the same building where I had been a teacher. This could have been a huge challenge, but thankfully it turned into a blessing. One of my biggest supporters (and pain in the butt:) was my former teaching partner Jennifer. She has vibrant red hair and the temperament to go with it. Early in my role transition, a situation came up where she wanted to leave the school to get cupcakes for a student who did not have any for his birthday treat. By contract, teachers could only leave campus during lunch time and I didn't want to be seen as playing favorites. So when she asked to leave I said "not at that time". She then said that she was indeed going going and made a fuss in front of the office secretary. I asked her to come into the office and closed the door. My first issue as a principal was with one of my best friends! She told me I was being unreasonable and I told her she was undermining my authority. In a manner of minutes we had apologized to one another and immediately after the meeting I ran to the store and bought cupcakes per her "request".  It's something that we still laugh about today.

Years later, I ended up moving to another district and Jennifer became a building principal. However, we still made it a point to have breakfast and catch up (and argue about) all things educational when I came back to visit. One of our topics was casual Friday. She felt strongly that it did not show the professionalism that we as educators crave to be shown by the community. She was going to propose eliminating it from her school. While I understood where she was coming from, I thought she was crazy for "picking that battle" when there were so many other things to focus on. At a breakfast meeting several months later, I asked how it went. As predicted there was a lot of resistance. Although it did not get eliminated, she said "there was a lot of healthy dialog on the topic and they all know where I stand". Wow, I thought. That takes guts, and maybe the dialog that happened WAS worth it. Her staff knew exactly what she thought and that she would always be honest with them about things.  That's courage and that's also a way to build trust. Not on agreement, but on honesty!  I was learning from my stubborn friend.

Most recently, we were at a conference together where an educator was talking about revolutionary things being done in a district by changing starting and ending times and flexing schedules. Jennifer was intrigued and I stated that it was a great idea, but that it wasn't realistic given contract guidelines. She then pointed out to me very bluntly that I was looking for roadblocks instead of looking for solutions. Of course I was defensive and felt she was being naive. However, I thought on it for several days (even though I never told her) and realized that I had been looking at what could go wrong rather than what could go right. My friend had once again had the courage and honesty to point out where I could grow and improve.

In 2015, Jennifer received the outstanding principal award for her region at the MEMSPA conference. It was well deserved and also a chance for me to congratulate her on growing from a colleague I respected to a principal that I admire and who I feel honored to know and collaborate with. Now I know that her staff and fellow principals feel the same way that I do about her and her leadership skills. If you are lucky, you will have a friend and colleague that not only supports you, but will also argue with you, disagree with you, and maybe, just maybe, change your mind on issues from time to time. For me, seeing red is a good thing!

Hanging out with the Region 12 "Outstanding Principal of the Year"!


"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." - Confucius

"Don't fear failure. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail." - Bruce Lee

"The only person you were destined to become is the person you decide to be." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is Genius Hour? (3 minutes) 


Monday, January 18: No School for MLK Day
Tuesday, January 19: Elementary Principals Group at Wayne-RESA 7:30-10:00 am
                                 Boggs Observation 1:00 pm
Wednesday, January 20: Achievement Team Meeting (Larabell) 8:20 am
                                      REED (Nadon/Limberg) 9:00 am
                                      Casucci Observation 9:30 am
                                      Benson Observation 10:30 am
                                      Wennstrom to Board Room for Climate Committee 1:00-4:00 pm
Thursday, January 21: Staff Meeting with Bridget Regan (Instructional Rounds) 8:00 am
                                  Weakley Observation 10:30 am
                                  Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
Friday, January 22: Parent Meeting (Wennstrom/Robertson/Limberg) 8:30 am
                               Limberg Observation 9:30 am
                              Selection of Poster Winner for "Begin With the End in Mind"

Monday, January 25: Parent Meeting (Wennstrom/Weakley) 8:20 am
                                 DATA DIVES in the LMC / iReady Window Opens
Tuesday, January 26: Wennstrom presenting Twitter at Churchill High School 8:00-9:00 am
                                 Robertson Observation 1:00 pm
Wednesday, January 27: M-Step Data Training at Riley (Barntick/Casucci/Wennstrom) 8:00-11:30 am
                                      YMAD Assembly (Star Wars Theme) 3:00 pm
Thursday, January 28: Staff Meeting with Ben Hillard (Math Coordinator) 8:00 am
                                   Merchant Observation 9:30 am
                                   Nadon Observation 10:30 am
                                  Principal Handbook Meeting (in Rosedale LMC) 2:00-4:00 pm
Friday, January 29: No Students / Teacher Work Day (Optional Report Day)

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