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.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My 5K Reflection

Have you ever wanted to accomplish something yet it seemed out of reach?  And because of this you were a little bit nervous? Scared you might not reach it if you tried?

Yesterday I ran a 5K with a student at my school.  She had been working for the past two months with her Girls on the Run team to prepare for this day.  As we stood waiting for the race to start, she was nervous and a little scared.  She'd never done this before.  Even with these feelings, we set off.

Right at the start her parents cheered her on as she passed them.  She smiled and kept going.  Along the way there were times when we slowed down and walked.  We could hear the cheers of others and words of encouragement.  She would pick up the pace and start jogging again.  Then we would slow down again.  So we set small goals; ones within sight.  Jog to the next tree.  The next street light.  We never stopped, and before you knew it, the finish line was in sight.  We picked up the pace until we crossed it.

As I thought about that morning, I reflected on how similar the situation was to my life and possibly others' too. Although it wasn't my first 5K and I wasn't experiencing feelings like she was, I've been there before and I know I will be there again.  It may not be a 5K, but there are things that I want to accomplish and things I want to achieve.

Running with her helped me realize a few things when working towards a goal.

* Encouragement and support from others can help when things start to get tough.  When you start to doubt yourself and think it can't be done, encouragement from others can keep you going.

* When the goal is going to take some time to reach, set up smaller ones along the way; it gives you a chance to celebrate what you accomplished so far even when there is still a ways to go.

* Things might happen along the way.  There may be obstacles to overcome - physical or mental, but never give up.

When looking at the three things I realized while running yesterday, there is one last thing that comes to mind: It's important to share your goals with others.  If you don't share with others, there is no one there to support you when you need it and celebrate with you in the end.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Embrace Change


It's been on my mind lately so I thought I'd write about it. 

A simple six letter word yet sometimes it brings much fear and anxiety into people's lives. 


Change means something different. Something we're not used to doing. Change leads us to the unknown. If we've never done it before, how do we know it will work? How do we know things will turn out right? 

This is where fear sets in. Anxiety. Doubt. Skepticism. All the negative thoughts start to takeover. But change doesn't have to be a bad thing. 

Sometimes things need to change. 
Sometimes things need to change and we never really realized it. 

When things change, it might be hard. 
It might be messy. It might not turn out the exactly the way you expected. 

But that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. 

Embrace change. Stay positive. Push through. And who knows, maybe in the end, things will actually be better than they were before. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Positive Calls

Many people in the #PrincipalsinAction group have shared over the past couple of years that they started doing 100 positive calls on the 100th day of school.  I was afraid to take on this challenge.   I didn't think I could do it.  Don't get me wrong, I understand the power of the positive call.  I made them as a teacher and I even started last year as a principal.  To be honest though, I probably only made about ten last year; 100 seemed way out of reach!

Well this year was going to be different.  I decided I would take on the challenge, but for me, I was going to be realistic.  Due to all day meetings on the 100th day of school and the following day, I gave myself a week.  At the end of the week I only has 82 calls finished. But guess what, I didn't give up.  Today I completed my 100th call!

Each call started out pretty much the same way.  After the initial introduction I quickly said, "Don't worry, everything is ok with ________."  When a parent sees the number from school they often assume their child is hurt or possibly in trouble.  I had to quickly reassure it was neither.

I then shared the positive news that was relayed to me by the staff members on campus and it was immediately followed with joy, appreciation and even a few tears.

In the days to follow I had kids coming up to me with big smiles on their face letting me know that their mom told them what I shared or their dad let them listen to my voicemail.  I even had a parent stop me at pick up in front of the school to tell me that she just told her daughter what I called to share and her daughter couldn't believe it.

These calls brightened the day of the parents and students, but selfishly, they brightened my day too. They kept me going through some tough days. They made me smile.  They made me slow down and appreciate all the good at our school.

I can't wait to make more!