Sunday, May 7, 2017

Is Our School Better?

Principal ponderings...
I was very excited to get this month's copy of Educational Leadership in my mailbox this week because the focus was "Lifting School Leaders."  I was even more excited when I actually found time (translation: I left my house and went to Panera for a few hours of uninterrupted work time) to read through the whole magazine.  Here is what the cover of the magazine looks like:
This magazine could not have come at a better time.  I have to be honest, the last few weeks starting before vacation week until now, have been rather tough.  I have felt beat down.  Some of you have even seen me breaking down, mentally and emotionally.  I definitely don't want that to be how anyone sees me.  But I am human.  And this job is not easy.  So when I saw the cover of this magazine, I was eager to read it.  I needed to be lifted up.  I needed help getting back on my feet.  Warning: this post is about me being open and honest with all who are reading it.

The first article I read immediately got my wheels spinning and helped me to reflect on not only the last few weeks, but this school year, and actually all six of my years at Florence Roche.  The title of the article was "Is Your School Better Because You Lead It?"  Wow.  Reading that title, my immediate response was...I think so? I hope it is?  But I wanted to spend some time and dig deeper about this question and others that were asked in the article.  In the article, the author Baruti Kafele, encourages principals to explore their leadership identity, mission, purpose and vision.  These are all things that I realize now I have been unconsciously exploring this year, especially during the recent search process that I participated in with another school district.  During my exploring, I have learned that I am definitely a different leader than when I became an administrator nine years ago.  I feel like I have grown quite a bit since I have been at our school.  I'd like to think that has been a combination of my own learning and professional development, but I also feel like you, my staff, has had quite a bit to do with that growth.  Through good times and bad times, rewarding situations and difficult situations, you have all helped me grow as a leader.  And you continue to help me grow every day!

When I think about my leadership identity and my mission, I am drawn to something that Simon Sinek, the author of Leaders Eat Last, said: "Leadership is not about being in charge.  It's about taking care of the people in your charge."  I think my leadership identity can be found in that quote.  I do not show up to school each day with the goal of being the boss.  I show up to school each day seeking ways to take care of our staff, our teachers, our parents, and most importantly, I show up each morning with the goal of taking care of all of our students.  My leadership mission is tied into that quote as well.  I have been asked before, what keeps me up at night and what am I doing about it.  Well, what keeps me up, what drives me, is wondering if we are connecting with every single student in our school.  Are we doing what is best for them?  Are we reaching them and do they know that we truly care about them? This is my leadership mission.

Why do I want to make a connection with every student?  The article I read stated the why is my leadership purpose.  My purpose is to have a positive, lasting impact on all of our students.  I want to be part of creating successful members of society.  That is my leadership purpose, that is why I am the principal of Florence Roche.  I have said it before, but we are in the business of molding future minds.  That is a lofty task and an incredible responsibility.  By connecting with our students, by helping them grow into good citizens, we are helping to be change agents.  We are making our world a better place.

The article also discussed the idea of having a vision for my leadership and my school.  I liked that the author asked the question, "How will you improve and become more effective as a leader one year from today?"  Hmm, good question...what will I be like in another year?  I love growing, learning, changing.  I feel like I have improved each year.  It's exciting for me to think about how much better I will be a year from now.  I want to keep getting better at making connections with students.  I want to be able to model that for our staff as well.  I want to be a better instructional leader.  I want to be able to have honest conversations with each staff member, talking about what we need to do for our students, how we need to change and grow in order to help them.  The better I become in that area, the greater the benefit to our students.  Where will Florence Roche be in another year?  Where will we be in another five years?  I need to think more about those questions.  I'm thinking that will need to be a whole new blog post!

The past few weeks, I definitely let doubt creep in.  I let the voices of a few become louder than the voices of the many.  Reading that article and writing this post have helped me find my confidence again.  Is our school better because I lead it?  Yes, Florence Roche School is a better school because I lead it.  I think I need to keep asking myself that question, and continually thinking about my leadership identity, mission, purpose and vision.  And then I will continue to see how my leadership is helping our school, helping our staff and parents, and most importantly, helping our students.

How about if you try it now?  Stop and think: is our school better because you work here?

Currently reading:
I finished reading the Nikki Grimes book about a child in foster care, The Road to Paris.  I just started reading a book I got at the book fair.  I saw the title on the shelf and couldn't resist buying it!  It's called Word of Mouse by James Patterson.
I am still working on Lead Like a Pirate and have been participating in a Voxer book club to discuss the book.  The cool thing is the authors in the book club with us!  And I am excited to participate in a twitter chat about the book this Wednesday night.  Check out #MESPAchat at 8:00 Wednesday, May 10.  Of course I also need to be at the school committee meeting so I will figure out how to do some multi-tasking!

Events this week:
Tuesday - 4th grade math PD in the am, 1st grade math PD in the pm, Groton Fire Dept visiting 3rd grade classrooms
Wednesday - Author Mary DePalma visits 2nd grade, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25, School Committee meeting @ 7:00 - 2 of our students are being recognized for winning the All are Welcome contest
Thursday - Liz giving a tour for the Coordinated Program Review (SPED, ELL and 504) 8:30-9:00, Fine Arts Festival @ MSS from 4:00-8:30 - All of our students have artwork on display at the festival

Great things I noticed last week:

  • While wearing my sight word sticker, I was able to participate in a sight word hunt in kindergarten! 
  • I popped into Mr. Smith's class to see them working on their special American Revolution projects! 

  • This lovely lady came to show me what she made when the Eric Carle Museum program came to visit her classroom! 
  • Can't to learn more about what the Student Council is planning this month!  Excited that we are doing a project to support the Tyler Foundation! 

Check it out:
A post about helping parents understand writer's workshop and suggestions to help parents keep learning going through the summer:
Loved this post about teachers appreciating each other!
My brother recently shared this short film with me.  Watch it!  What an important message for us.  Thinking my reaction to this will be another blog post in the future:

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