Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Leading Through Service

Summer was definitely busy as my husband and I started to build a new home and look to sell our current home. I have been itching to write though! This past week, I became a member of my local Lions club. When I was inducted, I learned that someone needs to ask you to become a member. A sponsor needs to recognize your potential and nominate you to become a part of this service organization before you can even apply. Many thanks to my colleague, Scott Voth, who believed that my skill set would be beneficial to the club. I am truly honored.

Over the past few months, I have noticed that the world's most influential people always lead through service to others. As I was standing with other Lions club members during the induction ceremony, one of them stated, "You are not a success until you help others become successful." This reminded me of the words that Principal El shared at TEDx Pennsburg- "To lead is to serve, if you don't serve, you can't lead." This statement really resonated with me. As educators, we need to remember that it is our job and duty to help others be successful both in and out of our school buildings. If we model this behavior for our students, they leave our schools ready and willing to make the world a better place.

As I embark on a new school year, I will look for opportunities to serve my family, teachers, students, fellow administrators, parents, and my home and school community everyday. I think service to others keeps you humble and grounded. We sometimes loose touch with this focus as we work to check off tasks on our daily to-do list. Opportunities to serve others present themselves everyday, we just need to keep our eyes and hearts open to them.

How can you serve those around you?

Check out the entire TEDx Pennsburg event here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

As I Finish My First Year......

I just looked at the dates on my blog settings. It has been over a month since my last blog post! I really need to set a writing schedule and stick to it. The spring was a little hectic and now that the summer is here, I find myself having more time to reflect. I just finished my first full year in building administration and to say I learned a lot would be an understatement. Here are some of my reflections on this past school year and my goals for the next few years to come.

There are a lot of things that take you away from what you feel is important in schools. 

For me, I think teaching and learning is and should be the most important function of our schools. Everything that occurs in our schools should revolve around learning. Learning can take a lot of forms. It should not always be thought of as a process by which students sit in desks, listening to a teacher while he or she writes on a smart board. Teachers can learn a new instructional strategy from a PLC meeting. I can learn something new through a conversation over coffee with a fellow administrator. There are a lot of things that take up our time in education, but we need to make sure to make teaching and learning our priority. In the years to come, I will continue to keep this belief close to my heart, make time everyday to get into classrooms to observe and give feedback to learners and keep current on how learning evolves in our society.

I should always seek to improve myself and others. 

I made mistakes this year. Some of the mistakes were really dumb and I should have known better. Although I won't make those same mistakes again, I think I might still mess up a time or two. There is always room for growth. From now on, I will try to be more thoughtful in my decision- making and anticipate how my decisions, words, and actions affect other people.

Ask for feedback. 

I think some administrators just plug away everyday in their jobs. They don't ask for feedback because they don't want to hear it. I do believe it is important to ask students, teachers, parents, community members for honest feedback. My goal was to ask this question of every teacher in the building at the end of this school year. I didn't get to speak with everyone, but I did get to speak with about half of them. People shared openly and I learned a lot about myself, the history and culture of the district, and the ideas teachers had for areas of improvement. I know that I won't get to everything they discussed, but I know there are ways we can work together to make our school better than it was this year.

What other advice do you have for me as I embark on my second year as a building administrator?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Let's Notice Teacher & Student Curiosity

Let's talk about staff empowerment and transformational leadership. I have been pondering my thoughts on these topics, unsure of what to write. I have to admit these important concepts have not been in the forefront of my mind this school year. As I am just finishing my first full year as an administrator, I am still learning about and getting to know the comfort zones of the faculty.

I am embarrassed to tell you that I am a bit of a micro-manager at work. I have difficulty sharing responsibility and delegating. If I take care of an initiative or problem, I know exactly what is done. If I share responsibility, I fear that follow through may not occur. Maybe I would find myself having more time if I worked to empower the staff in the building. The special educators like to refer to me as forever a "case manager".

This year, I noticed one of our teachers was exceptionally active on Twitter. Knowing that Twitter can be an outstanding PD tool, I wanted to share her knowledge of Twitter with the rest of the staff. I asked her to run a workshop with a few teachers on how to use Twitter to build your PLN. She was glad to own it and I was so impressed by the time and energy she put into planning the workshop. Just a few short weeks later, that same teacher told me she was curious about the new LMS our teachers were trying out. Without abandon, she jumped right in to try it out. I think her curiosities will certainly transform into leadership abilities.

Let's notice when teachers and students are curious. Let's cultivate that curiosity and step aside so the staff and students in our buildings can lead. Watch the great work that will happen when you notice the strengths of your staff members and capitalize on them. Next year, I will look for opportunities to show instead of tell, watch instead of do, and listen instead of talk.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Just Do It

Since I have become an assistant principal, I have tried to work under a mantra, "Just Do It". In the field of education, we talk about what we want school systems to look like and reminiscence about how our past experiences have shaped what we believe now. However, the rubber has to hit the road. We need to make decisions and  work to realize the outcomes of those decisions. “Just Do It” reminds us to be efficient with our time and ensures that we are moving forward.

Time management is not my specialty. Sometimes I start a task and find myself distracted by an e-mail, a phone call, a student need, a tweet, a text (I could go on and on here.) Maybe that is the nature of the business. My fellow assistant principal and colleague, Art Vigilante, is a time management master. He is extremely efficient, setting himself to a task and accomplishing it all in one fell swoop. He is great at “doing it” and getting it done. I envy him and his ability to fit it all into a day. For me, time management is always a work in progress. Self-awareness is always the first step in realizing change. Here are some tools that I use to keep me on track:

  1. MY GOOGLE CALENDAR- I live and die by my Google calendar. I like to joke that if the Google calendar app ever crashed, I would walk in circles at work. I schedule everything on my calendar and you can guarantee that if it isn’t on my calendar, I am not going to be there. I use my calendar to remind myself of tasks and goals that I set to accomplish for the day.
  2. Paper & pencil lists- as much as I love technology, I still appreciate a good “to-do” list. There is just something about putting the line through a task that I just can’t give up.
  3. Self-reflection- I have learned quickly that as an assistant principal, your day can easily be consumed by necessary tasks that don’t always align with where you want to focus your energy. Reflecting helps me to remember where I want to spend my time and how to channel my efforts towards student learning.
  4. My Family- They help me to be a better professional. I am surrounded by amazing people that support me as a working mom. My sister-in-laws and moms take good care of my son so that I can focus on “just doing it” at work. On most weeknights, I come home after work to a homemade dinner made by them and a clean house. I am immensely grateful everyday for this blessing.
  5. My Colleagues- One thing I love about working at Upper Perkiomen School District is the people. There are numerous teachers within the high school who come to me with problems AND possible solutions. Some teachers come to me to discuss a concern and end the conversation with “how can I help you?”. I can count on my fellow administrators to help me out if I am feeling stuck on something or cover for me if I can’t be present somewhere. Always looking to help each other out, we have a great team!

How do you manage your time? What methods do you use to “just do it” everyday?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Growth Mindsets are Contagious

(Photo credit: http://cohort21.com/derekdoucet/wp-content/blogs.dir/22/files/2014/11/growth-mindset.gif)

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about growth mindset. Being the topic of the latest Google EDU newsletter and a recent SAVMP prompt, I couldn’t help but to reflect on my own mindset. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me on long rides in the country. He would talk to me about how much of a class clown he was as a youngster and how he never really cared about school. He used to tell me that education was the key to success, that being smart was cool, and that I could do anything I put my mind to if I worked hard. In a sense, my dad was growing my mindset from a young age.

I carry his words with me everyday. It has always been a dream of mine to design and build my dream house in the woods. A few years after my future husband and I met, I mentioned my goal to him. His first reaction was to dismiss my dream as unrealistic. Sure it was a stretch and I knew it would take discipline, but I was willing to put in the hard work. At the time, my husband’s mindset was fixed. In his world, my goal was unattainable. However, after some long discussions and additional planning, I convinced him that there was no reason why we couldn’t build our dream home. I was growing my husband’s mindset just as my father had grown mine as a young child.

In my career, I have seen every opportunity as a learning experience. In order to stay current and relevant, I need to take advantage of new experiences and step out of my box. A few months ago, I stepped into a new position as an assistant principal of a high school. Soon after beginning, I thought to myself, “What do I need to do differently now that I am an assistant principal?”. Obviously, I needed to do a lot of things differently, but most importantly, I need to focus on growing mindsets.

My experiences have shown me that growth mindsets are contagious, so how do I grow the mindsets of the students and staff that I work with? Here are some of my ideas:
  1. Set and communicate lofty but realistic goals for those in the school
  2. Avoid thinking that our school is an island and seek to build connections throughout the community and world
  3. Consider every new opportunity and experience because you never know where it may take you
  4. Communicate that even the best students and staff members have room to grow. Those who take offense to this statement need to consider their own mindsets.

What are some other ways that I can continue to grow my mindset and the mindsets of those around me?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Leading Learning In My School Community

My background is special education. As other special educators know, we are experts making content accessible to all students no matter their learning style, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Special educators are trained to modify content and make accommodations for students. Essentially, I feel confident that I can lead professional development in differentiated instruction within our school community. I can provide support to teachers in how to modify content, process, product, and environment in order to individualize instruction for our students.

I have also trained my colleagues in the implementation of school- wide progress monitoring and data based decision making. We worked with all staff members to collect data on individuals and groups of students, design and implement interventions for students, and track the effectiveness of these interventions over time.

No doubt I can lead the staff in differentiated instruction and data based decision making. I do continue to battle with finding time to lead in these areas. However, I can find time to lead by increasing the amount of time I allot to walkthroughs, providing systematic feedback to teachers, and by making this knowledge easily accessible to teachers through conversations, my webpage, and social media.

How do you find time to lead teaching and learning in your school?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Creating Connections- My First Priority

I was recently accepted into the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program. This program serves to connect new and seasoned school administrators by providing them with opportunities for mentoring through collaboration. I am looking forward to learning with experts in the field such as Amber Teamann, Joe Mazza, Paul McGuire, George Couros and my UPSD colleague Jeff Fries.

During the month of October, we were tasked to respond to the following prompt: "What are some ways that you connect with your school community?". Here goes!

When I was first hired at Upper Perk High School to serve as the assistant principal, I strongly believed that building strong connections with people would need to be my first and most important priority. In order to do this, I believed I needed to do several things. I needed to be present, transparent and genuine, show interest in others (and not only in their professional experiences but their personal lives too), ask questions and truly listen to the answers that followed. I also needed to show that I cared for my colleagues, students, parents, and community members. If I could be successful in demonstrating these attributes, I would build trust and help foster change throughout the school and community. I hope that I have succeeded in my first few months as a school administrator.

I have worked to connect with the school community by starting a Twitter page for Upper Perk High School. School administrators now frequently post about the great work we are doing in the school and district. I try to be present at extracurricular functions so that I can meet parents and students and engage in personal conversations. I also maintain a Google site on our school's webpage that contains important information and documents for parents and students. I feel it is important to be an active member of the community and always look for ways to pay it forward. Soon after joining the UPSD community, I signed on with Love Upper Perk. I now work with others to maintain their Facebook page. This experience allows me to build bridges between the school and community. How do you connect?