Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Pause for Reflection

San Francisco Bay from the water
I was shocked to see that it has been almost two months since writing my last post.  Then I began to think about the last two months and realized that I shouldn't be so surprised.

Having finished my first "official" year as an Administrator, the final stretch was by far the most challenging.  The reasons why aren't really that important.  We all have our rough patches and challenging moments.  What is important, however, is what the final few months of the year have taught me and that is what I want to reflect on...

Starting any new job is always a bit of a crap shoot.  You hope that you have made the right choice.  You hope that your belief in your abilities is not misplaced, and in short, you hope that you are up for the challenge.  Most of us make a few lists: What I need to do, What I want to do, What I would really love to get to if there's time. 

 My "need to do" included things such as: 
- revamp the professional learning process
- visit every classroom multiple times each semester
- make sure the new hires have the support they need
- be a role model for teachers and students and parents by practicing what I preach regarding life-long learning

On my "want to do" list were items like:
- present at a few conferences
- start looking at creative ways to use space on campus for more innovative learning

My "love to get to" list was/is a collection of dreams and ideas for myself and for the school.

In reviewing my lists, most items reflect progress.  I am proud of the fact that I visited every teacher on campus and saw most teachers a few times. The classroom visits were a win for me but honestly,  I am more proud of the fact that I met with every single teacher, counselor, and the librarian (all under my oversight) as well as support staff in end-of-year conversations.  This was brand new ground and SO worth the time it took.  Making time to listen to everyone was fantastic.  They appreciated the time and I appreciated their insight and enthusiasm for the process.  Definite win and something that I will keep for next year.

From my "want to do list", I didn't present at just a few conferences, I presented at FIVE conferences.   The bottom line, however, isn't the number of conferences that I presented at.  The bigger take-away was that while I was presenting to help others learn something new, I was the one doing the learning.  If you have never presented at a conference, I encourage you to submit a proposal for one conference in the coming year.  You won't regret it, and if you are going to be a leader, you have to lead on your campus and off.  Period.

Our professional learning was definitely re-vamped as I quickly moved us to a model of personalized PD.  This summer I am continuing to work on that as I develop a way for faculty to curate their own digital portfolios and track their professional learning.  

My biggest surprise and most epic win however, has to be the approval of a brand new innovation lab!  In an effort to model life-long learning, I spent a good portion of my free time (I use that term loosely!) learning about creative space design, design thinking, and the maker movement.  We are moving to a BYO laptop program in the fall and have an additional 100 iPads on campus for student use.  This led me to identify a better use of space since computer labs would no longer be needed.  The nitty gritty of the process will be chronicled in several upcoming posts, but suffice it to say that after 8 months of research, meeting with vendors and contractors, and field trips to places like Google and Kixeye, our Board approved the space redesign and we will begin transforming space next month.  

As a first year administrator I am humbled by the trust given to me by our faculty, students, parents, and Board.  Very little of what I proposed or asked of people this year received push back.  I recognize that this was my "honeymoon" year and that with the bar set so high, next year will be twice as challenging as I work to build upon the trust shown me this year.  However, I have a solid foundation and a clearer idea of what is in store for me.  I am already compiling my lists for next year, and hope that my reflections in June of 2016 will be half as positive as this reflection is.  If that is the case then I will have had a very successful year.  And the best part is that if I have a successful year then the faculty and students do too and that is the ultimate accomplishment.

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