As I think about my childhood, I well remember many interactions with my parents that ended with the same response from them…”Not yet.” I usually heard that when I asked things like, “May I have a snack? May I have a pet? May I go to my friend’s house? May I have ice cream? May I have some money?”  Well, you get the point. (Disclaimer- I really did have a great childhood). 

These were all met with the same response from my parents, “Not yet.”  In my young mind I heard this to mean “Not Ever” because the gratification of getting the desired outcome was not immediate; therefore, I treated the delay of “not yet” as if it was a “not ever.” 

As I have become an adult and have had various experiences in my personal and professional life, I have come to appreciate the upside of “not yet.” In retrospect, it is often the best answer I could have gotten. Does it mean it’s what I want to hear? No!!

I have realized that getting the “Not Yet” is often in my best interest so that I can be positioned for the highest levels of success when the answer becomes a “yes, now.” The difficult part of hearing “not yet” is in feeling like I did as a child and misunderstood “not yet” to mean “not ever.” 

As an adult, “not yet” gives me time to continue to grow and develop my knowledge, skills and mindset so than when I hear a “yes, now,” I am able to succeed at a more effective level. 

So, even when it is not what you want to hear, look for the upside of “Not Yet” it doesn’t mean “not ever.”

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This is a question that we are constantly trying to answer. It seems that we are currently in a time frame in education when things appear to be off-balance. Balance doesn’t mean that all things are equal all the time. It is defined as “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” How much technology integration should there be? How much writing should there be? Does this assessment reflect the learning that has occurred? Did I teach this standard? The list goes on and on with a common underlying element of balance. How do we determine these ‘correct proportions’?

Have we found it? My answer is, not entirely, but that doesn’t mean we will give up on trying to get there. How are you achieving balance?

We say it every year, and we mean it every year. Time flies! I haven’t yet decided if it’s a result of getting older or just a condition of the human existence that days seem to go by at an alarming rate. We have so much to do! No less is the case with this school year. It is hard to believe that another school year is coming to a close, but it is. Each school year begins with lots of hopes and ideas of doing things differently…teaching that lesson that we did not get to the year before…adding that project that just seemed to be on the ‘I’ll do it later” list.

Whatever the idea, let’s not forget one thing…it’s the DO-ing that is important. Having the great ideas is the first step to DO-ing differently, and is often a step that many educators find rejuvenating and exciting, but time flies and we often fail to DO. As this year comes to an end, let’s not only think about what we could do differently but resolve ourselves to actually DO things differently.

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(Wonderful Staff at KME)

As a principal, I am accustomed to getting questions from parents, students, teachers, Central Office personnel, community members, and visitors to the building. I have to say that I really like questions. In fact, I ask questions. I’ll gladly admit that I have more questions than I have answers.

I agree that having questions asked of me causes me to clarify my thinking around educational issues. I love when kids ask questions as it opens unknown possibilities for them. Working with staff provides a great venue for asking questions about instructional strategies. It provides an opportunity to strengthen professional learning on the part of the teachers and me.

Recently, when asked questions by newly hired faculty members, I found that my response was, “I don’t know.” I comically realized that it was the answer I gave to most of their questions. At that moment, I know they were comforted and confident that they had every confidence in their principal. I was confident that our collaborative conversations would result in better answers than I could give any way.

There is one question that I have been asked that ‘strikes fear.’ It is, “So, what are you going to do in year two of Kelly Mill?” Yes, this is a simple and straightforward question, or so it would seem. As a principal of a newly opened school, Kelly Mill Elementary, that had an amazing first year, this is NOT a simple and straightforward question. It is fraught with exponentially high expectations and aspirations of grandeur which I can barely fathom. Yet, while this question keeps me awake at night, it also inspires me to be consciously competent of ways in which I can be a small part of attaining those high and lofty goals for KME.

As I think of it, I realize that the best I can do is to ‘Be Better Than Me.’ Be a better version of who I was as a person, principal and leader last year. Be an improved and more effective advocate for doing what is best for our KME Colts. Be the kind of supportive principal that enables teachers and other staff members to achieve at personal and professional levels they have never before. Be a reflective and evolving leader who takes advantage of ways to promote and share the great work done by phenomenal educators and parent community members of KME. Be a continual reader of current educational practices and issues. Be a learner through ‘listening to learn in order to lead.’ And even sometimes, just Be.

As we think about meeting new expectations, the challenge for each of us is to ask ourselves, “How can I be better than me?” If we individually commit to being better than we were last year, great things will continue to happen for our students and for our colleagues.

Experience Doesn’t Make You Better, Only Evaluated Experience Makes You Better. (Dr. Howard G. Hendricks)

I recently heard this quote in a series by Andy Stanley. As I began to think about this statement, I continued to see its application within the educational setting and mentoring aspects of leadership and leader and teacher development. Educators know that providing descriptive feedback to the learner is a critical element for learning and growth.

Marzano and others have long researched the benefits of consciously providing feedback to the learner.

W. Fred Mizer stated, ‘Feedback is an objective description of a student’s performance intended to guide future performance.’ Teachers have long understood that the more specific they are in their feedback to the student, the higher the ensuing achievement of the learner. No longer are ‘Good Job’ or Smiley-Face stickers appropriate for providing feedback about learning. Feedback is specific and non-judgmental. It is merely a statement of what was observed and what can be done to improve the next time.

The same goes for educational leaders responsible for providing feedback to the instructional staff. No longer are comments like ‘Good Job’ or ‘I enjoyed the lesson’ appropriate as end conversations about the teaching and learning that has taken place in our classrooms.

With the renewed interest in teacher evaluation systems and the emphasis on learner outcomes, it is important that current educators realize that our emphasis is also on the input. As Dr. Hendricks stated, it is ‘evaluated experience’ that improves practice. We must embrace the benefits of descriptive feedback that we can both provide and receive from colleagues. Too often we simply reflect on our practice by answering, ‘What worked? What needs to be improved?’ Please do not misunderstand me. These are valuable questions to ask, but we also need to utilize the benefits of having someone else provide feedback to us in the course of our daily practice in order to effectively answer these questions.

As building leaders, we must continue to provide the kind of descriptive feedback to teachers of all levels in order to promote growth and the best instruction for all of our learners, student and adult.

The next time that someone says ‘Experience makes you better,’ remember that only ‘evaluated experience’ makes you better.

 

Ron

cc licensed by flickr photo shared by Robo Android

Today was one of our monthly administrative meetings for all principals in the district. It started off with some training on the SLDS (Student Longitudinal Data System) that is in operation in the state. The training was designed as an overview of the functionality of SLDS. Due to the length of the training, we were promised lunch and time to chat with colleagues. I have to say, that was when the real meat (no pun intended) of the meeting actually began.

The lunch was a great meal of hot soup, breads, and desserts prepared by the culinary program at one of the local high schools. During the meal, we watched a video entitled, A Game of Hope about the Gainesville Tornadoes. It is a moving video about the power of encouraging the human heart and what happens when you intentionally decide to believe in another person. I highly recommend seeing this inspirational video if you have not already seen it.

Our facilitators then posed a series of guiding questions focused on ways that we, as school administrators, provide ‘hope’ for our teaching staff through alleviating their stress or improving staff morale. This was a great opportunity to spend some uninterrupted time with colleagues and learn from their ideas. We then shared out some of the ideas such as Leave Early Pass, Jeans Pass, giving lots of chocolate, providing meals, and other variations on the theme.

One that I found most interesting was from a colleague, Steve (@Otwell_MS), who said, ‘Let your presence be your presents.‘ Wow! How powerful. I thought about this in terms of its impact far beyond what a leave pass, a piece of chocolate, or other ‘trinkets’ as presents could have. (There is nothing wrong with chocolate…sometimes that’s all you need). But, to improve morale, something long lasting helps and that’s when your presence is needed.

Some examples of your ‘Presence as Presents’ could be…

  • Physical Presence: Nothing replaces you being visible on car duty, bus duty, in the hallways, the cafeteria, and don’t even think about not being in the classrooms…
  • Mental Presence: Truly listen to the conversations that teachers have with you in passing in the hallways, at the coffee machine, in the lunch line, etc. The FISH philosophy stresses the importance of ‘being there’ (physically) and in the moment…
  • Leadership Presence: Yes, you are the designated ‘leader’ in the building, but this presence is a continual awareness that every encounter and exchange you have with everyone in your building is an opportunity to help lead them into fulfilling their professional and personal goals. It’s a presence that allows you to provide resources and strategies that help them be more effective in the classroom today than they were yesterday…
  • Human Presence: This is one that may be difficult for us as leaders as we sometimes feel that we are ‘supposed’ to have all the answers, do everything well, know the latest educational strategy, have read the latest educational publication, provide all of the support, answer every question, address every concern, and the list goes on and on.  But I have found that teachers, students and parents need us just to be human-someone who doesn’t have all the answers, who can’t do everything, who is still learning, and most importantly, who makes mistakes and doesn’t get it right all the time…

As you enter this holiday season, what ‘presence’ could you give to those around you, at work or at home? I look forward to hearing from you…

~Ron

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cc licensed (BY) flickr photo shared by nehodrawm

These simple two words have been ‘running around’ in my brain since I heard them spoken in a leadership team meeting last week. Of course, these words were used to create some comic relief about a topic we were discussing as possible and worth follow through as one of the teachers shouted out, ‘…Or Not.’ Laughter rang out across the room at this utterance. I laughed heartily as well sensing the irony of what we had just discussed.

Yet, a few days later, I find myself still thinking on those two simple words and the power that they hold. Actually, these two words made of five letters hold immense power to derail a forward movement, to negate a powerful idea or thought, to crush a respect, to halt development of culture. You see, these words tell what we all know to be true as part of the human race, that most things are a matter of choice. There are a few experiences that we feel are happenstance, but once explored, we tend to find a matter of intention and choice on our part or of someone else.

In education, we are not immune to these two words and their destructive nature. In fact, whether they are uttered or not, they are often used. We consciously, or subconsciously, use them when we hear ideas of innovation ‘or not,’ when we spend time learning a new instructional strategy ‘or not,’ when we decide that the colleague who is next door is worth having a difficult, but needed conversation ‘or not,’ when we decide that the student who is not understanding the content warrants another chance ‘or not,’ when we take the time to learn our students and their passions to build long-lasting relationships ‘or not.’

We can all benefit from being conscious of these two words…’Or Not.’