Wave Makers

make waves 2*This entry is inspired from The Hidden Rules Series with #leadupchat on Saturdays @ 8:30am CST 

Beware of Calm Waters…

Growing up as a kid we spent many a summer at the lake. Rising early in the morning the lake would sparkle, and serve as a mirror with the sun reflecting off of the calm waters. However, it wasn’t long as the hours continued in the day that the waves started to beat against the sides of docked boats and on the water’s edge. It was with excitement we would take our boat out into those waters anticipating what the day may hold. However, I also remember finding myself in the middle of the lake when a storm would blow in and a downpour would engulf us. Experiences such as those were a mixture of both fear and pure delight. As I serve in my current building as an assistant principal I am making some strong connections to my current experiences.

Leaders anticipate that the waters won’t always be calm, they have already decided that waves will be inevitable when stepping into the boat.

Be a Wave Maker…

Leaders aren’t afraid to make waves, they understand that there will be storms to face. My friend Bethany Hill (twitter @bethhill2829) would refer to this type of leader as fearless leadership. I’m convinced schools rise and fall, not on test scores, but on leadership – plain and simple. School leadership is not for the faint of heart, and today more than ever waves will result, as we move forward against the steady stream of public perception, testing mandates, teacher turnover, vast socio-economic family dynamics, and outdated best practices that should have retired 30 years ago.

The Leader Is Prepared…

Go with the right equipment – It would be foolish to take a boat without paddles, so why go into school leadership without understanding the culture, dynamics, or needs of students.

Don’t go alone – Bring others along for the ride. Leadership doesn’t have to be lonely, and in today’s world the call is to connected leadership. Do you empower others to take the oars and row along with you?  These people exist on your campus but also through you PLN. Those who are rowing with me include the amazing thought leaders in my Twitter PLN #leadupchat and voxer group.

Anticipate the weather – Instructional leadership is a big piece of the pie for a campus building leader, but relational leadership is even more so. Student achievement flourishes when we meet the felt needs of both our students, staff, and community stakeholders. You must understand the weather (campus dynamics) and how it contributes to the waves you are, or may face.

Ride Out the Wave – It isn’t just what happens when the wave hits but how you recover from it. As a leader how you emerge on the other side of challenge speaks tremendously about you. How we navigate rough waters NOW may determine for people if they want you at the helm of the boat LATER.

Truth be told it is much safer from the shore, but not nearly as much fun and you miss out on chance to truly experience something incredible as a leader. Our people need us to take risks and to make waves. Today’s kids and tomorrow’s leaders are depending on us to model for them taking chances and having the resilience when knocked about by a few waves. Our people need us to step into the boat often before they will, and if we fear waves, then how will our people ever survive the ride!

Grow. Lead. Serve. -Jeff

Let Them Be Little

Today, this thought is on my mind, “Let Them Be Little.”  One of the instructional coaches at my current school introduced this phrase to me.  I came to Early Childhood Education after a decade-plus of working on a K-5 campus. This past year has taught me over and over the value of providing high quality schooling for our 3 and 4 year olds. I have the K-5 perspective reminding me that Kindergarten will come soon enough, with all of its academics and less developmentally appropriate practices. While our 3 and 4 year old children are in our Early Childhood Schools, let’s remember to “Let Them Be Little”. They will only be this precious age once. Their most important responsibilities at school should include playing and learning how to be a good friend.

Don’t misunderstand me, we have state provided Pre-K guidelines that we follow carefully.  Our students are daily exposed to and challenged to expand their phonemic awareness, academic vocabulary and number sense, but let it be done through exploration, play, creativity, and hands-on experiences.  Those are the things they will remember and carry with them as a foundation for all the academics that will come soon enough.

As early childhood educators, I believe we are obligated to design learning experiences that honor their littleness.  I think about the experiences students at my school have had this year that honored their littleness and feel proud of our teachers and their commitment to this principle. Our students built a model community called Johnsonville, learned about each other’s families, participated in multiple dress up days as community helpers, fairy tale characters, and even dinosaurs, performed a Snow White reenactment, and pretended and played in centers designed to be caves, weather broadcast booths, construction zones and pumpkin patches, just to list a few.  Our students also learned how to respect others, be friends, regulate their emotions and give their best efforts.

Early Childhood seems to be the final vestige of ‘Developmentally Appropriate’ instruction.  Every day has the potential to be magical for a child.  Let’s not lose sight of their tender age and stage as 3 and 4 year olds and pledge to “Let Them Be Little” while they are in our care and learning in our schools. They are only that way once. -Heidi

Let Them Be Little

I will let them be little

Fill their hearts with laughter

Help them grow their wings

Nurture their sense of wonder

Inspire them to believe

-poem’s author unknown

Non-Negotiables

I believe early childhood educators daily lay the foundation of excellence for the next generation of innovators through fostering creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and effective communication.

My thoughts here are simply intended to be my reflections on my journey as both a learner and leader. I share them with the hope they will spark others on their journey too.  That being said, I keep these quotes in mind:

“The journey is the destination.”  -Dan Eldon

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” -Arthur Ashe

I was recently asked, “What non-negotiables do you want to have in place in your building as a campus principal?” by one of my school district leaders.  Below was my response, in a nutshell.

My non-negotiables align with the 6 Exceptional Systems of No Excuses University (based on the book No Excuses University by Damen Lopez):

  • Universal belief in the achievement of all students, a Growth Mindset is crucial
  • Authentic collaboration that transforms the way we work together to achieve goals
  • Tight standards alignment for curriculum; vertically aligned curriculum
  • Ongoing formative & summative assessment practices that align to the standards
  • Data management practices that engage/involve students & teachers alike
  • Targeted intervention model that meets the need of all at-risk students (both behavior and academic) in a proactive fashion/at the point of need

I would also add:

  • Building a culture of innovation, creativity, reflection and risk-taking
  • Technology integration that is transformative not static
  • Relationships that last; “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” -John Maxwell
  • Designing engaging work
  • Employing research based instructional practices as a norm
  • Having a vertically aligned and implemented social emotional curriculum & school wide Positive Behavior Supports
  • Engaging parents and the community in both traditional and nontraditional ways

As you read over my non-negotiables, what would you add?  What are your non-negotiables in your building when you are the campus principal?

-Heidi

#Leadupchat Launching

#leadupchatTwitter has become such a powerful learning network for educators, certainly beyond anything anyone would have imagined years ago when it launched. When I first started using Twitter in 2008 it was still text message based, but the opportunity for expansion was evident. I have personally benefited  from the wisdom and leadership of many other ed thought leaders and felt the timing was right to add another layer to the edconvo. Nathan Lang (@nalang1) and myself are launching #leadupchat on March 21 and want to invite you to join us in this journey. This chat will be every Saturday @ 8:30am (CST) and will have a guest moderator monthly just to invite other points of view into the conversation.

This chat will focus on school leadership broadly, culture, changing paradigms, and the growth mindset. We can not wait to learn with those will join us as we explore topics that impact us all in education and the challenges we face as we move forward. Thanks for being on the journey as we grow and learn together. -Jeff

Innovation Happens

I will be the first to admit I love things that are gadgetty (is that a word) or techie because it is just cool, cool, cool. This video reminds me again about how imperative it is connect innovation with education in tangible ways. Elliot Masie says something so key that as educators we must be highly aware, “beyond being cool can it do anything?” We can not become self sufficient on technology as some great teacher in and of itself teacher itself but must provide meaningful connections. If we are not careful we stand as educators on the precipe of deifying technology as the end in our schools and possible future careers for many students. No, it is the beginning.

We are tremendously fortunate to live in the 21st century ripe with innovation, but students of today must know how to do more than manipulate buttons and stare at compelling screens. No, we must help them to think critically about creativity, design, problem/solution, and the greater benefit that results from innovation. We now stand at a place where the makers of today ARE the makers of tomorrow.

Technology + Innovation + Learning

-Jeff