Saturday, January 6, 2018

#OneWord - Strength

As soon as January hit, posts started popping up about people's one word for 2018.  To be honest, I just wasn't feeling it this year.  There wasn't a word that stood out in my mind.  Actually there we many words, and I didn't want to take the time to think about narrowing it down to just one.

After reading many blog posts from members of my PLN, I was inspired to write one of my own.  It's kind of like positive peer pressure.  I began to reflect on this past year, but more recently I thought about my time over holiday break.  I have made it a priority to be at my gym as much as I can over break and I have really enjoyed it.  On New Year's Day we made the gym a family event and took both kids. The boys dragged their feet and didn't want to go, but I think back now to the conversation in the car on the way home. Both boys talked about how much they enjoyed it, and although it was tough, they shared how good they felt now that they were done.

Reflecting on that day helped me come up with my one word for 2018.  Strength.

I want to make it a priority to work on my strength at the gym.  I go through ups and downs where I'll get to the gym for a couple of weeks and then I got MIA for the next two.  I want to make it a priority.  I want to build my physical strength which will also help with my emotional strength.  Working out clears my head, releases stress and helps maintain my emotional strength.  My emotional strength is needed as a mom and as a principal.

I want to focus on having strength to have tough conversations when needed.  I tend to be non confrontational in my professional and personal life, but sometimes those conversations are needed.  Conversations are needed to help us grow and learn.

I need strength to handle all the things our job throws at us throughout the year.  It seems when things are going well and no big issues are happening, bam, things change.  I want to have the strength to not let those things get me down; strength to keep going.

I need to have strength to come home after a long day and be there for my family just like I'm there all day for the school community.

For 2018, I'm focusing on strength; physically and emotionally.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Love of Reading

My son has had books in his hands since before preschool. He loved to look at books and (eventually) read them. At some point, things changed. I don't really know exactly when, but they did. He read, but it was only enough to get the "assignment" completed.

Read a chapter, write a summary.
Read for 20 minutes.
Read and record your book on the sheet.
Read, finish, take an AR quiz.

When summer or other vacations would roll around he wouldn't want to read. Typical responses would  include, "My teacher didn't say I had to," or "I already earned all my points."

But this year things are different. He's devouring books like crazy. Books I've recommended to him in the past and he never wanted to pick then up. He's reading in the car, reading between his brother's games and guess what, he's choosing to read over any type of electronics (which is huge!)!! Laying in bed tonight he said, "If I was sick let's say, and couldn't go to school tomorrow, I think I could finish my new book I just got today.”

What changed? What's different?

Maybe it's just him. Maybe it's something else. But I can sure say that his teacher has had a great impact. From day one he's come home excited about his classroom. His teacher has taken time to talk to him about books and find his interest. She recommends books to him and hooks him in by sharing something about the book. Every book he's read so far this year has been recommended by her. (You can tell she's a reader too!)

There's something to be said about the relationship between a child and their teacher. And I'm grateful for the time she's taken to build one with my son and to connect with him about books.

He's definitely developed a love for reading! ❤️

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Overcoming My Failure with Home Visits

When  I became a principal I knew one of the things I wanted to do was make home visits.  I heard positive things about them, but never did one as a teacher.  My first year came and went, and I never scheduled one.  Fail.  My second year, I tried once with a hard to reach family and it didn’t work out.  Fail.  During my third year I attempted again for a child with high attendance issues.   Failed again.

Now in my fourth year, one might think I should just give up.  I recently read an article about Denver’s home visit program and it gave me that little push I needed to get going again.  I made a call to the mom of one of our students and set up a visit.  I shared with her that I just wanted to come by, bring a few books and connect with her child.  We set it up and I was so excited!  I couldn’t wait. As the date approached I had many thoughts running through my mind.  I was nervous, worried, and questioned if it would be successful.

I showed up to the apartment and after a few minutes of waiting, the student quickly spied me as I got out of my car and she ran over. She was so excited!  I will never forget that smile on her face. I sat on the floor with her and read books (mom joined us too!).

I did it! First home visit success. It was a chance for me to not only strengthen my relationship with the child, but build one with mom too.  I could have given up after previous attempt had failed, but I didn't. Thankful I didn't let the feeling of failure stop me.

I reflected on my experience that day and came up with a few lessons learned:
  • Just because something doesn't work the first time (or second!), keep trying. If it's meant to be, you'll find a way.
  • Take opportunities to build relationships however you can.
  • A home visit doesn't have to be because you're concerned, it's a chance to connect, build relationships, and show you care.
  • Don't judge someone because they're child comes to school late, they don't return calls, etc. You don't know their situation.
  • Every parent cares. Just because they're not doing what you want, doesn't mean they're not doing their best.
  • Spend that extra time with student living then and showing them you care. Take time to try and understand. We don't know what they come home to after school.

There is one more thing I didn’t mention about the home visit.  As I waited for them to arrive and before I went into their house I discovered that my location became the middle of a police chase. It was quite surreal.  As I drove off, the police activity was still in progress. I passed at least 6 officers on my way out. It appeared that they were still searching for the suspect. I include this not to scare anyone off from a home visit but because what stood out to me was the fact that with all the police activity, more students would be coming home shortly, if they weren't home already.

This made me sad for them and what they may have to experience.  It was also a reminder that our students deal with things that we are oblivious to or forget a lot of the time.  We are lucky enough that we have the opportunity to be a positive influence in their life.  I encourage you to do a home visit to know your students better  and to build stronger connections with them.  I have already scheduled my second one and can’t wait to keep doing this in the future.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Get Out and Play

As a principal, the one thing I can guarantee will make me smile is being with the kids.  And specifically, it's playing with the kids.  I try to get out and play with them on the playground every week.  Sometimes it's for selfish reasons.  If I'm having a rough day, a game of basketball will help improve it.  It clears my mind.  It makes me smile.

When adults take time to play with kids it builds relationships.  It shows them you care.

When adults play with kids, it can help model expectations and promote positive behavior.

Early this school year, there were some problems right away on the playground at lunch.  The meal duties were concerned that the kindergarteners and first graders were a little too aggressive out on the basketball court.  I quickly discovered that the situation wasn't because someone was trying to hurt another kid, but really it's because a couple kids knew how to play and the others were scrambling around just trying to grab the ball and run with it. 😀 So I hopped in, partly as the ref and partly as a player.

Yes, it was hot.  Yes, I was sweaty at the end. But guess what? The kids were learning the game.  The kids were having fun.  And I was having fun.  No problems on the court that day.  

Fast forward to the next day at lunch and one of the little first graders comes up to me with a big smile on his face and asks, "Hey Mrs. Peck.  Are you going to coach us again today?"

Melted my heart.  Made me smile.  Of course I was.

My challenge to principals, to teachers, to all staff working with children.  Get out and play.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Struggle with Being Vulnerable

Being vulnerable is scary.  It’s something I don’t tend to do.  It would mean letting my guard down, letting people too close, risk being hurt or judged.  

But yet it’s something I ask others to do all the time.  

I ask my boys to try something new.  I ask them to share with me how they are feeling when they are upset.

I ask teachers to try a new strategy in their class. I urge them to use social media to not only share their classroom but to build their PLN and learn from others.  I ask them to step out of their comfort zone.

I ask students to show up every day and give it their all. I ask them to try new things, and persist when it’s difficult.

Am I judging any of them? No way! I admire them for their willingness to put themselves out there.  I applaud them for their courage to try something new, knowing that it may not have the best outcome. I love them even more for their openness and conversation.  

Why is it that I am so fearful myself? As I read
Daring Greatly this summer by Brene Brown, I spent some time reflecting on this question.  There are so many takeaways that resonated with me as I read.  Many times I felt like she was talking directly to me, like she had a window into my life :)

As someone who likes to be right, being vulnerable means taking a risk, and that can be hard.  When taking a risk, you don’t always know how it will end up.  For me, fear sets in before I even take the first steps.  What will people think?  What will people say?  What if I screw up?  All of my perceived expectations start running through my head.  Sometimes I defeat myself before I even start.  It’s what Brene Brown would call shame, and there is no way to get rid of it but rather develop a resilience to it.  

I need to work on not letting shame or fear overtake who I am and what I want to do.  In order to do this, I need to be honest and kind to myself.  I need to be realistic. Many of the expectations I think others have of me are really what I have put on myself.    I also need to have my people; my support.  The ones I can be open with and lean on.   The ones who are on my side and want me to do well, but they’re also the people who can give me honest feedback to help me grow.   And really, I need to get over it.  So I make a mistake.  The big plan flops.  Things don’t turn out as planned.  Someone doesn’t like what I did. It hurts. Someone doesn't like me. Oh well. Isn’t that life?  I can still move forward.

As a parent I need to be able to model to my sons that it's ok to be vulnerable.  It's ok to take risks.  I can't just tell them. I have to show them.  As a leader, I need to do the same thing.  If there comes a time when I can sit back and think, this is easy.  Things are always comfortable.  Then that’s a sign that I’m not being vulnerable.  And if I’m not being vulnerable, then likely I’m not continuing to learn and try new things.  I’m not pushing myself to grow.  And that, in my mind, is not a place where I want to be.

“When people stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection.  When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable.  If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed.  It’s a tightrope, shame resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality-check the criticism and cynicism.” Brene Brown  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's Hard to Explain - My NPC Reflection

As I look back on my days at the National Principal's Conference it's hard to explain when someone asks about it.  It's hard to put into words the feeling of meeting with friends face to face when before we have only talked via Voxer.  Let me back up a little...

This was my second national conference and I couldn't wait to attend.  The learning and connections that took place during the first one proved to be memorable and worth every minute of it.  Although I was excited, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous.  Just a couple years ago I would attend conferences, learn from the presenters and head back home.  Now it is so much more.  I want to connect with other principals and build relationships that will help me continue to grow personally and professionally.  This though, is out of my comfort zone.  I tend to be a pretty quiet person and not really good about putting myself out there.  Over the past year I have connected with Principals in Action  (PIA) and Moms as Principals (MAPs) via Voxer and Twitter.  It's weird when you think about it, but as I flew out to Philly I was anxious and nervous to meet my friends.  One who doesn't understand the power of Voxer would have a hard time understanding this...they would ask, what do you mean your friends?  If they're your friends, why would you be nervous?  Well, as most of you know, it's a lot easier to connect and talk via technology than it is in person (at least for me!).  

Fast forward...I survived and it was amazing!  From the moment I got there I could feel the energy and excitement.  Connecting. Learning. Being Inspired.  I really can't put into words the impact the conference had on me.  Every session I went to, there was someone there from my MAPs or PIA group; to be able to sit with someone and learn with them is powerful.  Learning is much more that hearing the presenter.  It's the conversations during the session and the ones that continue after.  Lunch breaks and evening time allowed me to continue to connect with others, and even a delayed flight allowed me to continue to collaborate with friends on the way home. Thankful for Jessica Gomez who made the delay seem like nothing. :)

This conference reaffirmed by belief in the power of connections.  The belief that everyone needs to continue their own learning, and that everyone needs a little bit of inspiration to get us through. Through PIA and MAPs I have connected with educators who I can truly call my friends. My Tribe.
I continue to learn with them on a daily basis.  They support and inspire me to continue to do the work that I love. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Power of Reframing

This past weekend I was able to attend the National Principal Conference in Philadelphia. While there I was able to choose different sessions to attend based on my interests, and I couldn't wait to attend one by a much respected principal, Jessica Cabeen on Partnering with Families. I sat down and soon realized I was in the wrong session. It was Jessica, but it wasn't about partnering with families. :)

As the session started, Jessica Cabeen and Jon Alberts shared how we would be using improv to help with leadership,   I was immediately uncomfortable.  My stomach hurt a little and my heart raced.  This definitely wasn’t my thing. I don't like getting in front of a bunch of strangers. I wanted to get up and leave, but couldn’t get myself to do it.  It’s not that I didn’t think I would learn some great strategies, it was just the feeling of stepping out of my comfort zone that always makes me feel uncomfortable at first.

The session began and I started to feel at ease.  We were all participating and taking risks to volunteer and get involved, whether it be at our table or with the entire group.  Jessica and John took us through 5 behaviors that can help us improve as leaders: Listen, Defer Judgement, Reframe, Declare, and Jump In.

Reframing stood out to me the most.  It’s how you look at things and how you can take something negative and turn it into a positive (or at least neutral).  In the field of education we are presented with many things that come at us in a negative way: an e-mail from an upset parent, personnel unhappy with how we handled something, a student in crisis, facility issue…the list can go on. Although it was a leadership strategy that was shared, it’s really just a life one.  That one negative moment can impact us for the rest of the day (or even multiple ones!).  I strive to not let it.  I try to forget about it, but it’s not that easy.  Now I can do more that “wish” it away. I’m going to practice reframing the situation and try to find the positive.

My first opportunity happened on my flight home from Philly to Sacramento.  As our plane headed out onto the tarmac it slowed to a stop and we were told by the captain that we would be delayed for about 20 minutes and would be sitting there.  The 20 minutes turned into 30 and then over an hour.  As the man next to me started to get upset and talk about lawsuits, I looked at my friend, Jessica G., next to me and we reframed the situation.

"Thank you Southwest Airlines for delaying our flight and not sending us through bad weather.  I would much rather be on the ground than flying through thunderstorms.  I now get to use this opportunity to connect face to face with my friend and plan out our first day back with our staff."  

Of course we said it in a joking manner, but really we were serious. We laughed. We talked. We planned the first day. I could have gotten upset I could have let it ruin my day, but I didn’t.  I took the chance to reframe the situation and find the positive.  This year at home and work, I’m going to practice reframing.  

I'm thankful I worked through being uncomfortable and stayed for the session. I know have a strategy that will help me daily.

Next time you are faced with something negative, I challenge you to pause and reframe before responding.