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


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. 

Why? 

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!



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Culture of Reading


As I sat in bed tonight with my two boys, all of us reading our books,  I smiled.  This makes me happy.  My boys enjoy reading.  They choose to do it and they sometimes complain when they don’t have more time to read.  Then my mind switched to school and all of my kids there.  This is what I want for them.  I want all of them to enjoy reading now and for years to come.  


Recently I read Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven L. Layne that shared strategies for building lifelong readers.  A colleague shared it with me as something of interest due to the fact that we are always talking about getting kids to read, but more importantly getting kids to enjoy reading.  Something stood out to me in the very beginning of the book.  Steven talks about the disengaged readers that are forgotten by people because “fostering a love of reading in kids is not a curricular objective.”  He goes on to state that “we don’t seem overly concerned with making reading an attractive choice for kids.”  This really got me thinking.  With all the things that we have in society to grab the interests of kids, what are we doing with reading?  How are we creating a culture where kids want to read?  


This isn’t about teaching kids how to read or what to do with kids who are struggling to decode or comprehend, but it’s about the culture of the school.  What do we do to show kids that reading is what we value?  That reading is something we do?  That books are fun and enjoyable?


I truly believe that part of getting kids to enjoy reading is making it part of the culture.  We have made it part of our culture at home for my own boys, and we need to do the same at school.  


When I look around our campus, there are many things happening in classrooms and school wide that promote a culture of reading. Here are just a few:


Book Club - Two of our teachers started a book club for any interested students in 3rd-5th grade.  There are a variety of books to choose from so students aren’t limited to just one.  They read the book, come back, and give a book talk to the club.  After listening to the talks, the students get to choose another one to read.  


Reading Lounge - Inspired by our Voxer book club over the summer for The Book Whisperer, our reading intervention teacher devoted half of her class to a reading lounge for the students.  The lounge is open three days a week during recess for students to come, check out books and read.  It’s been quite a hit with all grade levels!  

Mystery Reader - Many classes have mystery readers come and surprise the kids by reading aloud to them.  It may be a family member, community member or a high school student.  
Book Cart - Our students council has put together a book cart that they bring out at recess multiple times a month.  It’s a give and take policy.  Kids bring a book they’ve already read to donate and pick a new one.  


Lunch with the Principal  - We are Readers - This year we switched up our lunch with the principal.  Instead of focusing on students being picked for the three school wide rules, we’ve centered it around reading.  Kids are chosen for a variety of reasons, all tied to reading: loves to read, new love of reading, improvement in reading...it can be anything!


Free Books  - We have accumulated many books in order to give them out to kids in need.  With a mixed demographic of students we have some kids that don’t have many books at home.  As teachers and I talk to kids and discover the need for more books at home, we send home a bundle of them.  


Read Aloud by Principal  - Throughout the year I get into classrooms and read to the kids.  Each time it’s a new picture book that I read to all the classes.  I love being with them and sharing my love of books.  
Reading Mentors - Students from our local high school work with a group of kids once a week after school on their reading.  Yes, this partly due to helping their reading skills, but mainly we hope that having the high school students read with them and model their love of reading, it will add the the culture at our school and inspire some of our students.  


One of the great things about education is that we are all in this together.  These ideas are not unique to our school, nor are they the only things out there.  We’ve taken these ideas from books we have read and schools we have been in contact with...and we hope to borrow more!


One of the best things I heard before winter break was when a kindergarten teacher shared with me that her students opened their gift from her, an Elephant and Piggie book, and they all got excited and yelled, “We LOVE reading!” She was excited to share and I was excited to hear it.  I want to keep that love growing as the kids continue to grow.  


I’d love to hear from people...what do you do at your school to create a culture of reading?




Sunday, January 22, 2017

It's Not About Being Perfect

Sometimes I feel in life that many of us try to be perfect.  We feel we’re not good enough in our job, in our personal life, working out, or other hobbies.  We apologize for shortcomings.  We get down on ourselves.  I admit it.  Sometimes I’m one of them.  


I sometimes wonder, when did this all start?  Did my parents put pressure on me?  Did my teachers? Society?  I remember back to when I was in 4th grade.  I had a project due for school about Native Americans.  I had made some sort of diorama and it was on the desk in my bedroom before I went to sleep.   In the middle of the night, my mom woke to find me sitting at my desk, crying, and saying it wasn’t good enough.  Really, I don’t remember this night, but I do remember my mom telling me about it and it has been something that has stayed with me forever.  The thing is, my parents didn’t pressure me.  They always wanted me to try my hardest and I never got in trouble for making a mistake.  So where did the pressure come from?


Fast forward to present day.  I have two boys, a 4th and 6th grader.  My 6th grader worries like nobody else.  He gets down on himself when he makes an error in baseball.  He always has to be right.  He goes in for extra help in math when his scores aren’t as high as he wants them.  I worry he’s just like me.  And believe it or not, I don’t expect him to be perfect.  I just want him to put forth his best effort in whatever he does.  If he can walk away saying I tried hard and I stayed positive, then I’m happy.  




As a leader in education, I want to do my best.  I know there is definitely pressure on me to do well, but really, no one expects me to be perfect.  No one is.  It’s ok to make mistakes.  It’s ok to realize you could’ve done something better if you had another chance.  I shared this with all the 5th graders last week at school.  I told them that I expect them to follow the rules and try their best.   I expect them to be kind to others.  But I also know they are going to make mistakes.  It’s part of life.  Everyone makes mistakes.  But what I want from them is to keep trying.  Be better than who they were yesterday.  Learn from their mistakes.  Grow as a person.


So who knows where the feeling of needing to be perfect comes from. Maybe it's just something we create inside ourselves.
Maybe it's a combination of genetics and society. I do know though, that what I strive for as an adult, should be the same as I want for my kids.  I hope well all remember...


.

Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep getting better.

Monday, January 9, 2017

One Word: Time

Since before 2017 began, I’ve been thinking about my one word. To be honest, I feel this slight pressure; my word has to be just right. It has to be powerful and convey meaning. Then I realized I'm over thinking. It's a bad habit of mine. My word is for me. I decided to focus on all the things I hope for and want to accomplish in 2017 and just like that, it was quite apparent.

My one word is time.

I want to spend more quality time with my family. Having a long break after Christmas gave me the chance to do just this. We played games, we laughed, we watched movies, we read...we spent time together.

I want to take time for me. It's easy to get caught up in work mode, mommy mode and taking care of everything else but myself. I want to make time to workout as it's something I enjoy and something that makes me feel good emotionally and physically.  I want to take time to read. Time to learn. Time to grow.

Time to listen. In the hustle and bustle of daily life I find myself not always truly listening. Whether it's with one of my boys at home, my husband, a friend, or a colleague, my mind is always two steps ahead on the next thing to get done. I want to focus on being present with people and slowing down.

And lastly, I want to be more aware of time. I often say “Where did the time go?" OR "I wish there was more time in the day to get things done." I need to focus my time on what's important. There's definitely free space in my day and I want to be more aware of how I use that time. I want to use it on things that are important to me.

Time is important. Time is precious. We never know what life will bring our way and I don't want to regret the time I didn't spend.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Looking Back on 2016


As 2017 begins it's time to think about my focus for this year, but before I do, I'll take time to look back on 2016. Lindsy Stumpenhorst of the #PrincipalsinAction Voxer group set forth a challenge to reflect on 2016: What would you change? What did you learn? What was crazy amazing? I could spend all day writing about 2016, but today I'll just choose a few things about my year as a principal.

- I've learned that I'm not in this alone. Sometimes while at my school site it can seem like I'm on my own, but really, I'm not. Only if I choose to be. I've pushed myself this year to really connect with others in person and over Voxer and it's truly been something amazing. No one understands our job like a fellow principal.  Having others to learn from, listen, challenge, and inspire me has been a huge support.

- In the same aspect, I've learned that it's ok to ask for help. I think the stubborn side of me wants to prove that I can do this. I don't need support from the others, especially people at the district office level. I can handle it. Subconsciously I think asking for help shows I'm weak. I've learned that that's not true. Reaching out and asking for support is ok, and sometimes necessary. District level personnel is there to support if I allow. They don't know what I need if I don't tell them.

- I ended last school year focused and organized with things I needed to get done. My plan was to start August just like that. Well that didn't happen. Come the craziness of the beginning of the year I let all the things go that helped focus me. All the things that I put into place with my Work.Life.Balance Voxer group went out the window. Moving into the second half of the school year, I want to change that. I want to go back to taking time to prioritize my week and what needs to be done.

- Through all the ups and downs of 2016, I have to remember the things that have been amazing. The kids are amazing! They make me laugh, they impress me and sometimes they even make me cry. But they're the reason I do what I do every day. My staff has amazed me.  Multiple teachers this year have taken leadership roles above and beyond their classroom to help improve the lives of our kids.  

2016 was a good year and here’s to 2017 being even better!