Do you like me? Yes or No…

Do you like me?  Yes or No…

School is not an easy place to be for some of our students.  In my role as principal I am fortunate to be part of the struggles that our most challenging students face day in and day out.  Yes, I said “fortunate.”  I feel honored and humbled to serve in, what I think, is the best job on the planet…being a school principal…and I feel honored to be able to help students fix and improve their world.  I also love that I get to connect with many students on a daily basis to celebrate their successes and to raise them up when they are feeling like they are lost, lonely or feeling like no one cares.

Students look to each other for validation, acceptance, affirmation, recognition and proof that they belong and have friends.  For many students, this is not a big deal, but for others, it is a painful experience; thinking that you have no friends can be a lonely and miserable feeling.

I had the experience recently of being in a classroom and assisting a student with a desk cleanout on a Friday afternoon.  You know the kind of cleanout; when papers are hanging out from every nook and cranny!  Well, this particular student was visibly frustrated with the process and was about to leave the classroom and I happened to be near the door and saw the frustration on her face very clearly.  I offered to help with the hope that she would be able to complete the task and leave school on a positive note.

As we sorted through papers, we talked about keeping, in folders, papers that are school work related, papers that are important and papers that are not important; in other words, papers that were destined for the recycling bin.  As we sorted, it was clear to see that artwork was important and we carefully put those pieces in her folder.  Work related items also had their place and as we sorted, chatted and organized, her frustration noticeably lessened.

There was, however, a growing paper pile that was an eye opener for me.  This stack was all handwritten notes.  Notes of many shapes and sizes.  Full sized notes, half sheet notes, torn notes and tattered remnants of crumpled notes.  Each of these notes contained the same scribbled question, “Do You Like Me?  Yes or No.”

Sadly there were:

Notes completed.

Notes left incomplete.

Notes addressed to classmates.

Notes that were anonymous.

 

We acknowledged each note with the question “Is this important to keep or do you wish to recycle?”

Changing School Culture

Reading the book “Culturize” by Jimmy Casas during the Winter Break brought me back to this moment and the notes the student and I uncovered together.  I have been wanting to write about this for a few weeks, but honestly, I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to admit that this situation felt like we failed this student.  In Jimmy’s book he speaks of ‘culturizing’ our schools and what that means.  He says:

We must take time to reflect on and be willing to be vigilant in examining our school cultures through the eyes of students and staff and ask,
“What role are we playing in culturizing our schools?” (Pg. 4)

This is an important question and we must look at what we are doing in our schools to support students whatever the situation may be and, if possible, see the situation through the eyes of that child.

Every Student.  Every Day.  Whatever It Takes. 

Period!

So what can we do to change the culture?  Laura Steinbrink @SteinbrinkLaura posted the following tweet which is an excellent example of how a student was able to change the culture in the classroom using humour!  Brilliant!

Just. Like. That.

Every Student. Every Day.  Whatever It Takes.

Period!

Changing the culture in a school can begin in our classrooms, hallways and on the playground.  It needs to begin with us, the adults, but it can also begin with students, too, as seen in the example above and in the example below.

To the girl that sits here at lunch…

Every Wednesday evening my husband and I travel to a high school for practice in a concert band in which we both play.  Walking the hallways and looking at the artwork, you get a sense of the culture of this particular high school.  It feels good walking through the hallways.

One evening as I was using the washroom before practice started, I visited my usual stall in the washroom.  I closed the door and read the following note written by a student.

Wow!  Powerful!  It broke my heart to see this, but at the same time it gave me hope in our children that they were making the world a place where others could feel like they belonged. Here was a note written to a girl from a group of, I presume, girls who were encouraging her to come and join them at lunch time instead of spending it in a washroom stall.  Just outside the bathroom was a large box, the earthquake box, where they obviously sat and made observations about their school culture each day.

Part of me wonders if she ever took them up on the offer…my heart hopes she did.  The note was scrubbed off the door a week or so later, but I have never forgotten how it made me feel.  I can only hope that it reached the person for whom it was intended!

We can all play a part in developing a positive culture in our schools by “being intentional about our mindsets and attitudes.” (Jimmy Casas, Culturize, 2017)  The student who wrote this note was doing just that.  They were being intentional about their mindset and attitude to include someone who was feeling excluded, for whatever reason.

Being a Culture Builder

I choose to be a culture builder and choose to be intentional about how I approach each day and the role I play in our school with our staff and students.  With this being said I want to be able to tell the rest of the story about the desk clean out, but I cannot.  I cannot because it is not finished.  There is work to do and to be done. As we head back to school on January 8th, it is my intention to help change the culture for our students in a positive way.  Creating a culture where everyone feels like they belong and where students need not have to ask: Do you like me? Yes or No…

Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes.

Period.

 

 

Gotcha! Finally! Hook me up! Connections…

Gotcha! Finally! Hook me up!

These 5 words showed up in my Facebook Messenger window on December 30th at 10:16AM. To my shock and delight, an old friend, Phil, was sending me a message!

My immediate response was to accept his request…

“Hello!”

…and then I send him my New Year’s Bitmoji:

…and this one…

…with the caption…

“Can this really be you?”

And then…

A few moments later I receive the following message:

“Lol”

To which I reply:

Is that all I get? Lol????

…and then I receive this text:

I’m all teary eyed…my hubby
is laughing at me!  I’ve missed
you and think of you so often!

Our texting went on for about 35 minutes with lots of funny messages back and forth and then we had to have a real conversation via phone as this mode of communication was too slow for Phil.  The next 1.5 hours flew by and when I hung up the phone I immediately texted Phil again via Messenger:

You know you have a good
friend when you can just pick
up where you left off in an hour
long conversation!  Happy
New Year to you both.

…to which he replied…

Right back atchya kiddo! I’m
still smiling! Love ya! Happy
New Year to you all! XOs

We hadn’t spoken to each other in about 17 years!  Crazy, I know…life happens and time went by.  But here we were…picking up the conversation like it was yesterday…now that is a CONNECTION.

Imagine if our students came back to school after Christmas holidays and connected with one another in such deep ways…a connection to one person in the building be it adult or child!

Take the time to CONNECT with all students:

  • say their name out loud
  • smile
  • look them in the eye
  • pat them on the shoulder
  • high-fives in the hallway
  • greet them at the door
  • let them know that you have missed them
  • tell them you are excited to see them

Do whatever it takes to make that CONNECTION…

I know I am still smiling about mine…and so is Phil and that makes my heart happy!

 

Beginnings…

 

I finished my #oneword post very late on January 1, 2018.  The beginning of the new year.  The beginning of 2018.  The beginning of my commitment to live out my purpose.  The beginning!

Sitting here at the beginning of January 2nd, I, once again need to trust the magic of beginnings.  You see our son, Oliver, heads back to university for the beginning of his second semester and the feelings of missing him at home each day are beginning to surface.  These past 4 months have been the start of a year of beginnings for Oliver, and for us, his family.  For Oliver these beginnings have included leaving home and living in residence and experiencing the beginning of his university career.  For us, his family, it has been the beginning of letting our eldest child grow up, leave the nest and learn to soar on his own.  Beginnings are both exciting and bittersweet!

As we head back to school on January 8th there will be many beginnings but there will also be an ‘ending’ that will also be a different kind of a beginning.  We have a well-loved teacher retiring on January 15th, and for that particular teacher, retirement is the beginning of something she has worked toward for many years.  Mrs. Oxley wishes to begin her adventures sailing to Alaska with her husband  and completing volunteer work overseas.   Beginnings come from exciting endings!

It is not without tears and lots of emotion that Mrs. Oxley leaves a job she truly loves.
As a Kindergarten teacher she has enriched the ‘beginning’ career of many students who have run through her classroom doors.  She has been the ‘beginning’ teacher for many students. Parents will cherish the memories that their children were fortunate enough to begin school with Mrs. Oxley as their teacher! Beginnings are moments to remember.

As I head into 2018 and as I am becoming more comfortable with my #oneword choice, I look forward to my journey of beginnings…

  • beginning each day with purpose
  • beginning each day with reflection
  • beginning each day with positives
  • beginning each day with relationships
  • beginning each day with intention
  • beginning each day with focus

These are goals that I believe are achievable!  These are goals that will make me accountable!  These are the goals that will guide me toward living my purpose!  I believe I am beginning to like the journey ahead!

Trust the Magic of Beginnings…My #oneword 2018

 

Start 2018 off right!
Offer Extended!
Last Chance to Save!
Wrap Up your Holidays!

As 2017 drew to a close it seemed like we were being inundated with messages.  Everything from The Best Top 10 Lists to 17 Tweets That Sum Up 2017.  The final days of 2017 felt somewhat familiar…like the final days of the school year.  The excitement gradually building up before Christmas Holidays.

Being educators, we try to recharge over the holidays. It is blessing that we get to have some quiet reflection time before we head into the second half of the school year.

Thinking ahead to 2018, my thoughts naturally go to the students for whom we serve.  Those students who needed us the most and displayed this in the only way they knew how…

  • those students who pushed us a little too much
  • those students who spoke to us a little too harshly
  • those students who kept their distance and pretended that they were okay

I wonder how these same students will view 2018?  Will 2018 feel like a new beginning for them or will they follow a similar script from 2017?  As a leader, I want to be that someone who helps to change the script for these students.  I want to be part of that new script.  A positive script; a script of new beginnings.  I wish for all students to trust the magic of beginnings.

For our students a new or positive script can mean…

  • starting the year off with a clean slate
  • knowing that each day is a fresh start
  • trusting that mistakes made are part of learning and growing
  • being back in a familiar place that feels safe
  • connecting to someone or something

I have been thinking about my #oneword for 2018 and it has proven to be a challenging task.  Through this process I have gone back and forth with what I think my word will be and why.  I have had many conversations in my head about this.  I have reflected on last year’s word and I was happy with it.  The word was believe.  It was and continues to be a word that instills in me, hope.  The word believe keeps the kindness message at the forefront of everything I do because kindness is what I live and model for my school community daily.

As I head into 2018 I have decided  that I, too, need to trust the magic of beginnings.  I, therefore, have chosen the word Beginning as my #oneword.  I am excited to start my journey…

  • beginning each day with a purpose in mind
  • beginning each day with time to put my thoughts into a journal or post
  • beginning each day with positive messages to teachers, students and parents
  • beginning each day working on relationships with all students
  • beginning each day intentionally in classrooms with students and teachers
  • beginning each day with a plan to focus on less and to do it really well

I wish you all a Happy New Year and encourage you to reflect upon the ‘magic of beginnings’ as you make your way through 2018!