Saturday, December 15, 2018

What I Wish for You

December is the last month of the year.  In teacher world, we often think it's June.  Unfortunately, the holidays have a funny way of making things unusually hectic and causing people (myself included) to always keep looking ahead for "What's next?"

In terms of leadership this week, I've been seeing clues everywhere telling me to slow down, to stop looking ahead of the curve and instead, take time to enjoy the moment.  So in a time that prompts anxiety to get everything done, here are lessons that called out to me.

1) This is a photo I often stare at in the Guidance Office of my school:  "Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response."  - Victor Frankel


I often think about how many unexpected incidents that arise in our daily schedules as educators and I notice how hard it must be for administrators to be given a role of being held accountable to situations that are beyond their control.  My big take away from this quote is simply believing that the one constant is how we can always control the way we respond to each situation.

2) In closing out this year, I saw a quote from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl that embodies the spirit of being open-minded... and to "watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places."  

Take time to slow down, look around, and actively search for the secrets hidden in the most unlikely places.  Recently, I have felt that these treasures are not all that "hidden" and have always been right there in plain sight.

My stake in the ground: "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."  This applies to everything in leadership.  Open your eyes, your ears, and your mind.  Opportunity is right there for you.  Once you see it, muster up the courage to seize it. You will never regret trying. 

3) Lastly, the most important lesson I learned this week is "Greatness is not what you have, but what you give."  Servant Leadership at its best is not thinking twice to give your time and effort to others.  This year, I am extremely grateful for those who gave me their time thus making me stronger and kinder.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  

 So as we close out the last month of the year, my wish for you is to have more opportunities.  More opportunities to enjoy the moment.  More opportunities to find those hidden treasures and most of all, more opportunities to experience the joy of giving during this holiday season.  

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and here's to a New Year of even more possibilities.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Necessary Balance~ Consensus vs. Capacity Building

My colleague and I were discussing the difference and importance of capacity building versus consensus building; both of which are wholly important to leadership.

Upon reflection, I am struck at how each plays such an important part in establishing and maintaining a balance in the culture of any organization.

Jimmy Casa's words come to mind:


What I took away from this tweet is that in establishing the mission, the vision, the values, and goals of the school/ district, the process must engage all stakeholders (consensus building).

In order to sustain this vision, however, there must be fidelity to allocating resources and strategies that will enable the group to move forward towards that mission (capacity building).

As a Teacher Leader, I find that making decisions that support the mission and the vision often yields results that stand the test of time.  This process of sifting is what will sustain the work and propel the team to perform at a much higher level.

For me, the following questions I find to be useful to keep in mind are: What attitudes, behaviors, and commitments will we need to promote, protect, and defend if we are going to fulfill our mission?  

1. To what do we allocate our resources? 
2. What behaviors are we modeling and willing to confront? 
3. What do we monitor and celebrate?

These questions are what focuses my PLC work.  Richard Dufour mentions quite often in many of his books at how easy it is to get sidetracked or take shortcuts. For my reflections this weekend, I hope to become a stronger leader by keeping this balance in mind.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Culture Built With Synergy

I was reflecting this weekend and had to blog about two powerful statements that really resonated with me this week.

David Guerin (@DavidGeurin) tweeted this statement:

D. Guerin Tweet

I have had the privilege of working in one of the very best districts in New Jersey.  It is no accident that I am such a strong leader because of the many leaders (admin. and other teacher leaders alike) who paved the way for me, guided me, and supported me.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

To delve deeper, what I think so many (people) miss is that they don't need an official invitation to lead.  There is so much work to be done.  Taking initiative, being willing plus having the outlet to enact change is what proves to be the main ingredients to build a capacity of leaders.

This statement also reminds me of the many posts that Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) tweets about Teacher Leadership and "carrying the banner."  To me, his statements ring true that all teachers are capable of make a change and thus, everyone should be leading.

This profession is a give and take.  A relationship is built, strengthened, and sustained because of how much each party gives and how little they take for granted.

The other tweet that resonated with me, I credit to my Instructional Supervisor, Greg Jablonski (@gjablonski24 ) who wrote:

G. Jablonski Tweet

I found this quiet powerful because everyone who contributes, small or big, allows the entire team to move forward.  What energizes me is the thought of collaborating to benefit the students, whom we are ultimately here to serve.

Through my reflections this weekend, one word that jumps out at me is synergy.   Synergy is defined as "the interaction of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts."  What a wonderful word to have in any school culture. 

Thank you, David, Jimmy, and Greg for all your insights. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Leaders are Readers

My PLN friend David Guerin (@davidguerin) once tweeted to me that "Leaders are Readers."  The phrase has stuck with me ever since.  Just this past summer, I set a goal for myself to read 5,500 pages because, after years of being sidetracked having children and life in general, I desperately needed to get back into the groove of becoming an avid reader once again.

As I read book after book, I found myself learning more about myself.  Some of the many important "stakes in the ground" are these:

1.  Reading strengthens you as a professional.  It is undeniable that many of us get stuck in the day-to-day managerial tasks that push us away from reading.  It is, however, our moral imperative to read as much as possible and to be constant learners.  Our children deserve this.

2.  Reading exponentially increases your empathy.  I read countless numbers of fiction among the stack of PD books to mix it up.  I found strength in strong characters that morally stood up against evil but on another hand found myself angry at how often atrocities repeat itself throughout history.

This empathy made me approach people and situations with softer mannerisms.  Reading taught me kindness and to first seek to understand people without judging them.  Everyone is carrying a weight on their own shoulder.

3. Reading gave me many hidden lessons in leadership.  After reading so many books, I found that what I might find to be trivial, could mean the whole world to someone else.  As a leader, it is important to validate every person's concern.  What to you might seem like a small problem, could mean a bigger issue for someone else.

4. Reading made me appreciate what I have. Many protagonists in novels that I read dealt with so much trauma, had so little and dealt with it all with grace.  This made me reflect on the importance of striking a balance in all aspects of my life and made me be more grateful for every opportunity offered to me. 

5. Reading grows your creativity as a problem-solver.  I take comfort in reading and consider it as my superpower.  Every book I read was a gem that helped shape my way of thinking and has helped me developed and grow my creativity.  I am hoping to instill this in my students.  This year, I am including books to have them read for pleasure and am having them blog as a reflective tool.  It is my sincere wish that they too secretly find the world of reading to be immensely fulfilling.

To end this post, I am continuing the challenge to myself to read more and grow as a leader.  The two books that I want to read is Rethinking Homework (2nd Ed.) by Cathy Vatterott.  I find the debate about homework fascinating and hope to learn more about it.  Many stressors arise from homework and I feel it necessary to learn more about the issue as an entry point to examining the bigger picture of assessment and curriculum.

Second is a bit of a heavier "textbook" read, called The Principal's Guide to Special Education (3rd Ed) by Bateman.  This book I chose in particular after I attended a conference where students spoke openly about how frustrated they were in not being able to understand their accommodations.  To me, we have to do better.

In conclusion, please tweet me book suggestions to add to my ever growing lists of books to read.  I absolutely love recommendations.  Below are a few books that I have ordered and hope to dive into in the near future.  Happy Reading!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Commitment in this Netflix Generation

My mother who recently discovered Facebook has been sending me quite a steady stream of videos.  Videos related to cooking but mainly videos of graduation speeches.   It's no surprise that this past June, I found my inbox with an abundance of the inspiring speeches.  I still find myself catching up on watching them.

One commencement video that stood out to me was about a man who addressed a group of soon to be college graduates and spoke to the importance of "being doers" in a society that will overfill their cup with options.   He continued to use the analogy of the "Netflix Generation."

This generation he remarked is constantly bombarded with so many options in front of them, that scrolling through them, it renders them incapable of selecting a movie after having spent thirty or more unfulfilled minutes surveying their options.  "Might as well go to bed," was the bold statement he made.   

Image from: 

His message is clear.  What his hope for this generation is that "we" (collectively) do not fear to make a commitment.  Not only to commit to our family, relatives or spouses but to each other (as humans, as colleagues, as friends).

Somehow, this generation unintentionally limited itself by having too much in front of them.  The danger of this lies in finding ourselves more disengaged and numb to seeking out unforgettable experiences.  Scroll, scroll and scroll some more.

The remedy he proposed was simple:  Make a commitment, invest time and energy in where you find  passion, and don't be afraid to "push the button."  Learn by doing.  The world offers an abundance of opportunities.  Experiences, however, are rewarded only to those who are willing to take that leap.

My motto for this school year will follow his lead.  I will "learn by doing" and take the leap to experience new opportunities, even if it makes me uncomfortable; Actually, especially if it makes me uncomfortable. 

As for my goals this year, I resolve to stop doing for others what they can do for themselves.    This year, I hope to gain more valuable experiences in the company of others who are not afraid to commit.  I hope that in developing into a stronger Teacher Leader, that I gain more relationships and find a tribe of people equally committed to helping me grow.  

So, thanks, Mom! That video was great.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Building Capacity of Teacher Leaders

The definition of Teacher Leadership is multifaceted.  The point of this blog is to encourage fellow educators to continue their work in extending themselves to be leaders inside and outside of their classroom.

Teacher Leaders have an influence on students, other teacher leaders, and administrators.  Work must be done to develop and sustain them.

 There is no answer to build capacity that is wholesale.  You must be patient in your work to understand that persistence will get you to where you want to be; consistency will allow you to sustain the work or mindset that you hope to impart.

The approach that I have learned to build a capacity of Teacher Leaders is one teacher at a time.

I think a lot about this, especially when I see how easy it is to take shortcuts.  If you truly want to sustain the mindset overtime and exponentially build capacity, expecting everyone to "immediately subscribe" to your vision is not a goal to have in mind.

Instead, look to grow the tree and not focus on how many leaves are on your limbs.  Yes, growing a tree takes time.  Often, many give up or lose focus because of the lack of instantaneous acceptance of the mission.

Success, failure, and relationships are often words that are most readily used in Educational Leadership.  But I argue, that patience, consistency, and discipline are often key components that will allow you to build a strong foundation to build a capacity of Teacher Leaders. 

From The Man Who Planted Trees 
From Brainy Quotes

Friday, April 27, 2018

What have we accomplished this year that helped others grow?

This month, the #CompelledTribe theme is about ways to renew, recharge, or rejuvenate relationships with students and/or staff during the last quarter of the school year. 

This theme took me a long time to think through because it made me reflect on my own professional growth this year and it made me sad to think that the scholastic year is coming to a close.   It's bittersweet to think that in just two months I am going to have to take a break.  

Yes, breaks are great.  Summer is awesome.  However, in my thirteenth year of teaching, I know that having an "amazing year" does not come too often.  

This year is one that I pushed myself to grow professionally and personally.  I credit my accomplishments to having joined Twitter and made connections with amazing groups of leaders, educators, and authors who fueled my passion for reading and learning.  

I understand that the year-end does not necessarily mean I have to stop learning and growing but I am going to frame it as a time to allow me to reflect and celebrate my accomplishments and gear up for the work that needs to be done for next year. 

I do acknowledge that maybe not everyone is having a great year and there are people who are looking forward to summer break as a way to disconnect and recharge.  That's ok.  There is nothing wrong with wanting that at the end of the year.  

What I do hope that happens, however, is that we deliberately ask ourselves-- What have we accomplished this year that allowed others around us to grow?  What has brought us joy this year and what have we done that can be celebrated?  

Even those students and teachers who struggle academically, personally, and professionally would benefit from thinking introspectively about their own growth.  

In "Start. Right. Now" a book by Whitaker, Casas, and Zoul, they write about the influence you have to make those around you feel inspired.  In addition to thinking about your own growth, I challenge you to think about how you contributed to the growth of others by the attitude you chose to have.  Everyone has the capacity to lead and I hope that as a result of your reflection, you push yourself to make more positive and deliberate changes to the people and environment around you. 

The act of celebrating is something that should be done to put a closure to the end of the year.  I look forward to having conversations with students and colleagues to celebrate their positive accomplishments, large or small.  Although I am not looking to end the year yet, I have to say that this year goes down in my book as one of my favorites.  I hope that it is the same for you as well.  Keep being great and have a wonderful end of the year. 

What I Wish for You