Posts

Showing posts from 2015

When Paths Converge

Image
This past week I was one of an incredibly lucky group of Administrators who had the great fortune to attend the inaugural CUE RockStar Admin Camp.  For three glorious days, we escaped our offices and converged on Skywalker Big Rock Ranch in Marin.


While here we engaged in conversations that made our heads hurt by the end of the day, but also left us wanting more.  Underlying our three days was the idea of the Hero's Journey.   Here is a great video to explain this concept:




While we were exhausted on Saturday, it was still a bit hard to leave, at least for me, because I knew that I needed more time to process all that I had taken in during that short time.

Simultaneously I began reading Switch.  As I am trying to digest and organize all that I took away with me from RockStar Camp, I was struck by the appropriateness of my current reading selection.  Eric Saibel was one of my Yoda's at RockStar,  and I took much away from his sessions on building culture.  Where his work with…

What is the Purpose of School?

Image
This is a great question and one that was chatted about in one of my Voxer groups recently.  This question stuck in my head and led me to this blog post.  So I am grateful to my #LeadWild Voxer #PLN for bringing this up.  It was actually quite timely as we have been, in slightly different words, grappling with this question at home as our son adjusts to 4th grade.  Sometimes work and home align, and this is one of those times.

To begin to answer this question, I turned back to my "roots" so to speak, of a history teacher, and began with Socrates.  Really, I could begin my quest in many places, but for me Socrates seemed an excellent starting point.  During Socrates' time, Ancient Greece was a democracy of sorts.  Citizens (read: free adult men) were expected to contribute in different ways to the running of society.  For Socrates, he encouraged his students to seek the truth (this eventually will lead to his death).  To seek the truth, there were no textbooks or multiple…

Conversations

Image
Invariably, at the heart of what we do as educators is our ability to manage, maintain, and foster relationships.  Without relationships that are open, trusting, and safe, no one learns.  And I mean, NO ONE.  No student or adult can learn if they don't have a positive relationship with the person sharing knowledge.  Think about conferences you have attended.  Do you often find yourself sizing up the facilitator in the first couple of minutes and deciding if they have anything to teach you or not?  I will never forget a week-long training I was attending.  Day 1, the presenter shared some statistics.  One of my table-mates decided to Google the stats that were shared and found some discrepancies between what the facilitator said and what was presented in the original study from which the statistics came from.  Oops.  There went that facilitator's credibility and that was a week of wasted time.

So now think about all of the interactions that you have on a daily basis.  I have f…

Iterate, Iterate, Iterate!

Image
As we finish week two, I feel like our ship is ready to jump to warp speed for the school year.  Only I am not sure that all of the supports are in place to allow for the jump.   I feel like Scotty in the Engine Room saying we need more power or the engines won't hold for warp speed (my sci-fi alter-ego).  And then I had the opportunity to talk to some of our new parents about what we do at Notre Dame.  This conversation--for which I was joined by my colleague Rebecca Girard, who among other things is our Ed Tech Instigator--reminded me of Carol Dweck's work and the idea of a Growth Mindset.  And suddenly, I was looking at the fact that the "ship" is ready to make the jump to warp speed (or FTL as it is known in the current sci-fi shows) without all the supports fully in place as my own opportunity to model Growth Mindset.  How perfect!

As educators we constantly are talking about the idea of FAIL = First Attempt in Learning, and that being Life Long Learners is th…

Informing the Year Ahead

Image
Wow!  It has certainly been a week.  But isn't the first week of the year always a little hectic?  No
matter how well you plan over the summer, you never quite know how things will go once you add the students and staff.  This year was no different.  In reflecting on the week, I noticed a few points that I feel are going to inform my year and help me to be a better administrator.

1. Lesson one: flexibility and patience! Technology will always start off a little rocky so don't expect it to go smoothly!   We had so many IT issues I was ready to just hand out paper and pencils
and call it a day.  But the faculty kept plugging along and the more I communicated with them, the easier it got.  By Friday, most of the challenges had been smoothed out.  We still have some big issues to tackle in the coming weeks in order to get everything up to full speed but I was very pleased with the progress and the patience exhibited by all.

2. Lesson two: untether!  I spent more time out and abo…

Sponge Bob and School

Image
The first day of school is upon us.  And I have been so busy trying to get summer projects completed, I really haven't had much time to reflect on the first day.  So today I made it a point to really think about the message I want to send. To this end,  my inspiration has come from my son.  You see, in addition to Monday being the first day of school for our students, it is also his birthday.  Every year he gives me a theme and I create a cake for him.  This year he asked for Sponge Bob.  Oh Boy!  Well, I pulled off a decent cake to give homage to Bikini Bottom but as I worked on it, I thought a lot about the draw of this crazy show to kids.

What struck me was the undeniable friendship between Sponge Bob and Patrick.  They do goofy things together, they back each other up, they have disagreements, they reconcile, they have adventures, they laugh.  A lot.  And it struck me that this sort of unconditional friendship is exactly what I want for our students.  There is so much in the…

Strength for the Journey

Image
Strength for the Journeyis one of my all-time favorite worship songs.  It was written by Michael John Piorier and the lyrics really sum up my reflections from this past summer.

This summer was a lesson in humility and patience.  Traditionally summer is a time to set new goals for learning, improving, tinkering, and rest in order to prepare and rejuvenate for the year ahead.  Summer is a time to reset, take the long view, recalibrate, tackle larger projects.  All of these were part of my to-do list.  Now that we are a few days away from welcoming students back to school I see that the path this summer was far different from my vision.  And in the end, I am grateful for the challenges and hard work that came with the different path because I believe that our school is in a much stronger place than if the summer had adhered to  the path I mapped out.

The typical list of summer conferences that I like to attend did not happen due to a variety of reasons.  In addition, I was tethered very …

Reflecting on my #PLN

Image
People reflect and write a lot about how much they love their #PLN.   You can set up an IFTTT recipe to thank new followers on Twitter, the hashtag #FF is a popular tag on Fridays to recognize people you respect and want to acknowledge publicly for great contributions to your learning, and Twitter provides analytics that allow you to review and track reach and followers.  All of this is great.  And I know many people who are as data-driven in their personal lives as they are professionally.  In this day of social media, if you want to grow in any field, you have to put yourself "out there".  I understand that, and honestly, I work at it in spurts.  There are many a night when you can find me marveling at the Google analytics for my blog.  Hey, who doesn't like to see a new country pop up on your map of readership?

But reach and data are not what I want to write about.  For me, my #PLN has become something much more personal than Twitter feeds, G+ community members or Li…

An Argument for Choice

Image
I have been reading a book lent to me by a former student (I know, right? How cool is that?) that was written by a friend of hers.  (Also major cool factor!)  This is a book that with every chapter I am left thinking about something and questioning the "tried and true" practices of education.

So we come to the genesis of this post. As I was reading  The Art of Self Directed Learning by Blake Boles, my brain came to a screeching halt with chapter 4: Consensual Learning.  The underlying premise of this chapter is that school ≠ choice.  This was like a lightening flash for me.  As I began to really reflect on this thesis, I realized that it was true.  I also realized that it needs to change.  Here is why:

In school, our job is to prepare our students for life.  Knowing how to make healthy, appropriate choices is a crucial skill to life-time success.  We can not effectively prepare students for life if all we do is tell them what to do and when to do it.  Now, please do not th…

Don't Forget to Listen

Image
The last couple of weeks have been really crazy.  So crazy that I had to come in on a Saturday to actually catch up and clear off my desk.  We have all been there, I know.  The challenge for me these past few weeks has been that the further behind I got, the more challenging it was for me feel effective in my job.  People would come in to chat and ask "Do you have a minute?" and while I was saying "Sure" or "Of course", I was screaming in my head "No, I don't have a minute!  Get out and see my assistant to make an appointment!"  Not an effective mode to be in when having a conversation that is really important to that person seeking you out.  I also was really putting myself out there collecting data from the staff about a recent PD day that had been a stretch for me to put together as well as a stretch for many to participate in.  Needless to say, as the feedback came in, I was still feeling so invested in the day that I couldn't take …

March Madness Edu-Style

Image
It has been a while since I have been able to blog.  Sound familiar?  Winter and spring are really a crazy time of year in education, at least I think so.  Not only are you working hard to keep the momentum going for the school year after a nice 2-week holiday, but you are also planning for the next year.  A foot in both worlds.  It wears on you.  I have been struggling to keep my head above water for weeks.  But yesterday, it was different.  Yesterday was a breath of fresh air for me and an opportunity to reinvigorate my practice and rejuvenate my enthusiasm.  Let me tell you why:  Yesterday I was able to remind myself of what is most important: the students.  And how I did that was really nothing more than a series of fortunate occurrences that ultimately added up to one unbelievable day.

My day began not at my school, but at the school of a dear friend (we've known each other since college (you can decide how long ago that really was).  She is a 4th grade teacher.  In California…