- We have to take care of each other more than we do.
- Everyone leads in some capacity. Be intentional about your work.
- Every interaction with students, colleagues, and families counts...be cognizant of the power of 30 seconds!
- "Moments of awe" are all over. Are we doing anything about it? We have a responsibility to celebrate and live in "moments of awe". These are determined by our perception.
- In the absence of knowledge, people make up their own. At some point we decided to be less proud of the work we are doing. Celebrate education and drown out the negative.
- Culture first...ALWAYS! Culture is built or killed with every 30 second opportunity.
- You are the variable! Change something!
- Create a message that is simple, unique, and repeatable. Tell the story of your classroom or school.
- When you know your "why", your "what" has more meaning. Walk towards your purpose!
- Be unapologetically optimistic about the work you are doing.
Elementary teachers in Smithville R-II School District had the pleasure of spending the day with Joe Sanfelippo, co-author of Hacking Leadership, on our most recent professional development day. In this brief blog post, I am excited to share my takeaways in 10 tips and archive highlights from the day!
I recently reached out to Jimmy Casas and asked him to record a welcome message to kick off a professional development day for my staff in mid January. He agreed, and I was elated! The purpose of this post is twofold. I want to share his message so others in my PLN who are experiencing change can benefit. AND, I want to archive this video here in my "professional scrapbook"!
I have mentioned in other posts that my district is in transition. Maple Elementary, as well as 2 other elementary schools in the Smithville, MO school district, will open with a combination of new staff, students, and grade level in the fall of 2018. Splitting staff, announcing boundaries, and preparing for a complete renovation has been overwhelming and scary at times.
Jimmy's message best sums up how any staff should prepare for change. A safe environment that promotes risk taking and provides the support and time to adequately prepare for the change is necessary. "Great change begins with self change!" Yes!! Change your mindset from negative to positive. Change your outlook from dread to opportunity. Change your attitude from "wait until it is comfortable" to "start now"!
Thank you, Jimmy Casas, for this message. My staff and I appreciate your words and encouragement! This message was an amazing start to our day.
For my daughter's 14th birthday I surprised her with tickets to go see poet, Rupi Kaur, reading from her new book, The Sun and Her Flowers. It was a memory-making evening that the two of us will cherish. Elaine, my youngest daughter, has always loved writing and recently developed a love for poetry. The event was held at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City. This event space is AHH-MAZING!! Any event attended in this space is magical due to the architecture, structure, and beauty of the building!
As the evening unfolded, Elaine and I learned the expectations of attending poetry readings. To hear Rupi Kaur speak her poems was like tantalizing music pulsing through our veins...the songs to which words "gut punch" you and force you to face reality.
Rupi picked out a few poems to share from each chapter of her new book. Prior to reading the selected poems from the chapter, she would reflect and share on her writing, setting the audience up to anticipate the words that were coming.
Rupi expected and encouraged the audience to react to her poems as appropriate. The snapping was my favorite part. Rather than applauding, the audience snapped their fingers to show their appreciation, which is a common expectation of poetry slams.
The last chapter of Rupi Kaur's book is entitled "Blooming". With the start of 2018, there are five short poems that I recite to myself almost daily from this chapter. As I have bravely said to others recently, it is time to shift your mindset as we maneuver through transitions that cause us to question our ability to overcome change. It is time to PUMP THE POSITIVE and DREAM BIG every day.
The one thing that allows us to not embrace change or try something new is doubt. When doubt creeps into my mind, I typically ask myself, "What if I fail? What will I look like in the process? What will others think of me if I try this? What if I can't do it?" Doubt is a scary emotion that leads us to compare ourselves to others, have a constant worry of failure, and question if we are enough.
When doubt enters my mind, I now choose to listen to the words of Rupi Kaur....
If a student or colleague were to approach me with a new idea they were hesitant about, I would be one of their biggest supporters. Why then is it so hard to stay in a positive mindset and speak kind words to myself? It is time to DROPKICK DOUBT. That's right, give it a big punt far, far, far from me and my dreams!! And, every time it slinks back into my mind, I will repeat the process.
I choose to believe in myself, dream BIG, spread my passions far and wide, and embrace change! For me, "all means all" in 2018! I commit to staying positive, recognizing the gifts and talents of others, and pushing myself to try new adventures.
My #OneWord2018 has kept me up at night!! I have filtered through, mulled over and explored several words...
and I have decided on...
This may seem like a lofty word, however, when you love what you do; you want to be your ALL, give your ALL, and explore ALL that is out there! With ALL comes great responsibility! ALL means prioritize, find balance, and spread your passion.
ALL means loving and respecting ALL students, even when it is hard.
ALL means finding ways to #PumpThePositive because #kidsdeserveit and #teachersdeserveit ALL of the time.
ALL means giving your time to ALL that is important in your life...find time for family, your passions, new learning with your PLN, and yourself.
ALL means we are ALL called to be leaders...students, teachers, and administrators.
ALL means we are ALL responsible for the culture of our schools.
ALL means we are ALL in this together...through the changes ahead.
ALL means committing to personal learning, sharing and celebrating ALL ideas that ignite innovation, promote student choice and voice, and benefit learning.
ALL means ALL.
Yes, ALL is a lofty word for the new year, but I dedicate myself to setting out to accomplish ALL in 2018. ALL means ALL. It is ALL important and it is ALL worthy of my time. I will be my ALL. I will give my ALL. And, I will continue to explore it ALL.
As 2017 draws to a close, I realize we are halfway through a school year that will lead to new beginnings. Next year Maple Elementary will contain a combination of new grade levels, new staff and new families. This being said, I am forced to reflect. My reflection is a list of 17 of my favorite memories from this school year that "pumped the positive" at Maple Elementary School.
Through all of these memories I am reminded of the phenomenal students, staff, and families that I work with daily. My assistant principal, Dr. Eric Carlin, and I are committed to spreading passion to our school community every day! Sometimes one has to remind the other that the hard time will pass, and to face every new challenge with a positive mindset and grace. In the end, I can look back on the start of this school year with a grateful heart and excitement for what the remainder of the school year will bring! Cheers to these 17 memories (celebrated in no particular order) and the many new ones that are waiting to be created in 2018!
#1 Twitter Scavenger Hunt Through Smithville
At the back-to-school meeting, staff participated in a Twitter Scavenger Hunt as a team building activity. This idea was born from my PLN on Twitter and from ideas in Lead Like a Pirate by Shelly Burgess and Beth Houf. This activity accomplished the goal of getting our staff out into the community, generating teamwork, and starting off the year with smiles!
#2 Total Solar Eclipse
Not even a full week into the 2017 school year, we prepared for the total solar eclipse with 500 kindergarten, first, and second graders with trepidation! The media had convinced us traffic would be at a deadlock, students who removed their glasses would be scarred for life, and this was the opportunity of a lifetime! Probably to our benefit, it was a cloudy day and a very memorable experience as the world went dark in the middle of the afternoon for a few minutes.
#3 Building a Float
To celebrate the Sesquicentennial (or 150th Anniversary) of Smithville School District, each school was charged with building a float to represent school spirit. A team of dedicated (and competitive) staff members met in a barn to paint, build, and dream up Maple Elementary's float. We stuck with our theme, Learning Under Construction, to promote 150 Years of Building Leaders. Students were invited to dress as their future occupation and walk with us in the parade. We won the district's spirit stick and a trophy for Best Group Entry from the parade committee.
#4 Green Screen Videos
Last year we worked hard to make Friday's announcements from the office digital with the use of the green screen and app magic (@DoInk)! This year we have stepped it up to promote more PBIS happenings, read alouds, and student celebrations. Here is a favorite from the year...
With the letters that would announce each teacher's placement for the 18-19 school year impending...it was time to go to work and make November notable by pumping the positive with staff, students, and families. November consisted of a staff talent show, pancakes for staff, Monday Motivation on car windows (piggybacking off Car Window Poetry), a read aloud to all classrooms, admin presence at recess and on the bus, and an intentional attempt to say thank you to parents. It was our hope that kind acts for one would spread to many!
#6 Staff Talent Show
The most notable event in November was our staff talent show. Participants submitted their talent through a short video, and these were shared at a staff breakfast. Thanks to community donations, each participant receive a FABULOUS prize! Following is our video announcing the event. I think this activity taught us to not take ourselves too seriously!
By December, staff knew their placement for the 18-19 school year. With a focus on collaboration, technology integration, and kindness, a challenge was issued to students and teachers. Students had a 15 day Kindness Challenge and teachers were asked to complete 6 of 10 challenges that included GHO, a Pineapple Chart (borrowed from Brandi Miller), #BookSnaps, and Twitter chats.
#8 DESE Leadership Academy
Joining DESE's Leadership Academy has created an opportunity to partner with leaders to support learning and collaboration. This summer's kick-off included learning about our leadership styles, Luis Cruz talking about Professional Learning Communities, and Cathy Lassiter promoting developing your brain to support risk taking. Occasionally I meet with my regional group in KC, and we have the privilege of touring local schools. While I did miss the Outdoor Leadership Experience due to the Sesquicentennial Parade, I hope to attend this next October. I am looking forward to our upcoming meeting in January.
#9 12 Days of Christmas
Book swaps, faux fur, treats, caroling, and more...oh what fun!! Again, borrowing from my Twitter friends, we celebrated the 12 days before Christmas break in a BIG way with the 12 Days of Christmas!
#10 Learning Under Construction
This year's theme "Learning Under Construction" is based on the millions of dollars of renovations scheduled for the summer of 2018. Staff has had great fun with this theme. Yes, our yearly staff shirts are bright orange to support our theme! Being a part of the design process, pre-bid meetings, and change process has been a great experience.
#11 Twitter Connections
#KidsDeserveIt, #tlap, #JoyfulLeaders, #warriorscreate, #ssdpride, #Culturize, #MondayMotivation, #BookSnaps...I have found so many professionals to help me grow as a leader this year. From book recommendations, motivating blog posts, and weekly chats, my PLN has pushed me to promote the passion and step out of my comfort zone. I was recently interviewed by Barbara Bray and will be on an upcoming Rethink Learning podcast!!
One of the most difficult moments of my career was delivering letters to my staff to announce their placement for the 18-19 school year. Three elementary schools will open in 2018, and all will house Pre-K through sixth grade classes. On the afternoon that I passed out letters, there were tears, hugging, and words of support shared. I returned to my office to find that my staff had created a book of Grati-Tweets for me. (Grati-tweets are what we post in the teacher's lounge to post a note of gratitude to staff.) Reading through these kind notes that evening, was additional proof that my staff is ah-mazing!!
#13 Kids Deserve It
The 10th Day of Christmas became #TeachersDeserveIt Day! Families from Grace Community Church in Smithville reached out to me asking about a practical gift they might purchase for teachers. I asked them if they would like to give a donation to our purchase of 42 Kids Deserve It books for teachers for Christmas. They exceeded my wishes and purchased the entire lot for us! Celebrating teachers with this gift brought cheer before the holiday break! What a blessing from Grace Community Church!
#14 Leadership Hour
This year all 500+ of our K-2 students hold leadership roles! Students have met 3 times during the school day in Leadership Hour in the first half of the school year. Students are working to lead in the school, community, and at home. The video presentation was highlighted at the Smithville R-II Board of Education meeting in October.
#15 Cardboard Challenge and Family Reading Night
If you viewed the green screen video for memory #4, you saw highlights from our Family Reading Night and Global Cardboard Challenge. Sara Freeman, our awesome Maker Space developer and technology teacher, dreamed up the events to support the Cardboard Challenge. Our gym was a cardboard design studio. Boxes of all sizes had been collected for months, allowing families to build and create together. The leftover cardboard vehicles from our float became a racing station and props for a photo booth.
#16 Faculty Friday
This year we take time to highlight a staff member each Friday with Faculty Friday. A bio is written based on a survey that was given to teachers at the beginning of the year. I try to take a picture of the teacher with his/her class, and the post goes out on our Smithville MES Facebook site on Friday. It is a great way for the community to get to know our awesome staff.
#17 Principal Pride Awards
Principal Pride awards started last fall. After reading Kids Deserve It last spring, we increased up our positive phone calls home and started announcing each one on the morning announcements. This school year we have called home with positive reports to families well over 250 times!! This is a favorite part of our day. It is important to our students and models the passion we want to exude as the #JoyfulLeaders of Maple Elementary!
What a start to the school year it has been! We look forward to the return of school on January 2nd ready to kick off #JoinTogetherJanuary! Keep smiling!
Being a part of changes in a district allows for new opportunities, but it is not always easy. I am currently the principal of a K-2 elementary school in a lakeside community about 20 miles north of Kansas City in Missouri. We house approximately 500 little people who make our school the happiest place on Earth! With the passing of a bond and levy in our district, a 3rd elementary is being constructed and the elementary schools will become Pre-K through 6th grade neighborhood schools in the fall of 2018.
There are many benefits to this change, which include less transitions for students, the opportunity for student peers outside the primary grades, shorter bus rides for students, and increased instructional time. There are also many emotional changes to work through...the reorganization of staff to 3 buildings being the most recent emotional change. To combat this change, we find the positive in the hard times. Following the placement announcements, I shared the following message with my staff...
This weekend I started reading Culturize by Jimmy Casas. It was the perfect book for me at the perfect time!! (I also had a lot of fun creating #BookSnaps to highlight my learning on Twitter!!) Jimmy Casa defines "culturize" as to cultivate a community of learners by behaving in a kind, caring, honest, and compassionate manner in order to challenge and inspire each member of the school community to become more than they ever thought possible. When Jimmy talks about leadership, he is referring to teachers and school leaders. Collectively, everyone has the capacity to lead, and everyone is responsible for the culture and climate of the organization.
Reflect on these words from Jimmy, "No one person is responsible for determining your success and no one is responsible for your morale but you." Our positive culture at Maple Elementary is due to every person that makes up our staff. Even with the changes ahead, that morale is part of YOU!! Carry it with you as we spread to three buildings next year. YOU are responsible for keeping it going...spread the passion! You've got this!
Thank you for showing up everyday for students, colleagues, and our Maple families! I admire your positive attitudes, smiles, and hard work! You make the warrior family great, and you matter!!
As I update my blog and begin again, I am going to focus on the following bit of advice from Jimmy Casas:
George writes about the power of keeping a blog by mentioning the article, Why Even the Worst Bloggers Make Us Smarter, by Clive Thompson. George and Thompson believe that though our writing may not measure up to that of Shakespeare, the power of writing has changed the way we process information. Our understanding of topics can be accelerated by reflecting, creating, and sharing our thinking with an audience. If we want students and teachers to actively participate and share ideas with the world, it needs to be modeled by the leader first. This is an idea I definitely believe!
For the students and teachers that feel as if their work is not good enough to share, George asks, "Well then, how are you meeting the needs of your students?" Don't sell yourself short! The work you do and the ideas you share have the capacity to impact not only your students, but learners around the world. Derek Siver's short video, Obvious to You, Amazing to Others, is highlighted in George's book. It has a great message!
The past 14 months have brought us to this point! Tonight is a small celebration in what feels like a L..O..N..G journey. My classmates and I have completed our last class in our coursework towards earning an educational doctorate. The Liberty 018 Cohort from William Woods University has met almost every Thursday night at Liberty North High School to discuss leadership styles, redesign school districts, and evaluate educational programs. (Don't forget the qualitative and quantitative analysis that was in the mix!)
Tomorrow we will begin preparing for the next phase of the program. Our day long comprehensive final will be here in 5 short weeks. This is followed by the independent writing of dissertations. This group has definitely taught me to persevere. Over the last 14 months, we have bonded as classmates, colleagues, and friends. We have seen each other through life's milestones and heartaches. Through it all we remember to just keep going and laugh...a lot!
Dr. Rena Hawkins
I am the Principal of Maple Elementary School in Smithville, MO. I am passionate about teaching and learning while supporting a school environment that promotes a positive climate. My goal through this blog is to be a constant "learncacher", or a learner who is engaged in reflection and eager to share ideas. I am on the hunt for ideas that support exciting and authentic learning opportunities for students and staff.