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.”

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?

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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.

One of my passions is photography. I absolutely love the ‘click of the shutter.’ I am an avid iPhoneographer, Instagram user, Photoshop editor, Canon, Nikon, and even Olympus 35 mm fanatic. Yes, I say I am an amateur. When people ask me about photography I simply reply, ‘It keeps me sane.‘ It is an outlet for me.

As a continual learner, I am also currently enrolled in a digital photography class. I am operating in my own sense of ‘flow‘. In our first class, the instructor said that basically a photographer’s job is to…

‘create art out of a cluttered and unphotogenic world.’ (via Phil Winter).

This statement has rolled around in my thinking since last Tuesday’s class. As I have thought about it, I see a parallel to the work we do in schools and as leaders. No, I am not implying that our students and staff are ‘unphotogenic’ on any level,  but I am suggesting that our role is to help the learners in our organization make ‘art’ out of the vast amount of information that is readily available to 21st Century learners at an alarming rate.

How do we do this? Well, I will be the first to admit this is not easy and has many factors, but one critical and nonnegotiable piece is enabling the learner-student or staff member-to take ownership of their own learning. We must become facilitators and not the traditional ‘sage-on-the-stage.’ We must help them create ‘art.’

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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.’

As I have had the opportunity to attend the GaETC over the past couple of days, I am reminded that today’s K-12 learners are VERY different from the type of learner that I was. We, ‘older learners,’ are prone to say,’Well, it was good enough for me to learn that (traditional) way, and look how good I turned out.’ Ok. I am not sure that is a good thing in some cases, but I digress.

In order to reach today’s learner we must use today’s tools. As this powerful video portrays, Shift Happens. Incorporating technology into instructional practice is as essential to today’s learner as paper and pencil. It is NOT optional.

So, shift happens…have you??

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photo by @rondmac

 

I just ended one of the most energizing two days with my staff @KellyMillES. The energy and enthusiasm truly filled the room. The staff willingly came together during their own time to continue our journey to become the best staff we can be and attain our great moments.  We met new people, had lots of laughs, collaborated with educators @shiraleibowitz and @S_Blankenship in a Google + Hangout, had lessons on fly fishing, pottery, phone photography, sacred harp (shaped note) singing, and weaving.

We spent time learning about ourselves (directionality) in order to learn about interacting and collaborating with others. We resolved to practice three concepts:

  • Commit. We understand that unless we all commit to each other we will not commit to do the right work for students. In absence of a commitment, the action becomes merely a task to be completed. It is the commitment, or connection, to the person that results in the highest levels of achievement. We commit.
  • We don’t have the answers. In an era within education where information multiples at an unimaginable rate and knowledge abounds, the work of educators is more complex that it has ever been. Progression of standards (Common Core), intense scrutiny on assessments, and other demands cause us to realize that having ‘the’ answer is an archaic mindset. We do; however, realize that having lots of questions is more important and allows for true learning to take place. We don’t have the answers, just lots of questions.
  • Listen to Learn. As part of the human race, we understand our nature is to teach those most like us in terms of personality, learning style, etc. As such, we miss many opportunities to reach our students who are not like us and collaborative interactions with others who can help us become better and connected educators. So, we choose to listen with open minds, not having a preconceived idea of what the other person is going to say or what they should do. We consciously listen in order to learn. We listen.

At the conclusion of an amazing time together, I shared a quote that, in flipping channels, I heard from a TV commercial.

You’ll never get to the next great moment if you don’t keep going, so that’s what I do, I keep going.

If we are true to the three concepts @KellyMillES, I think that we will get to our ‘next great moment.’ In doing so, the students and adults connected to KME, will have their next great moment.

I can’t wait…

~Ron