Being Positively Positive

Choose Positive

As educational leaders we spend hours doing our best to develop positive cultures in our classrooms, hallways, playgrounds and throughout the larger school community.  Some days we may feel like we are spinning our wheels and that no matter what we do, the power of negativity brings us down.  What can we do when we feel the negativity creeping into our jobs?  We can choose to be positively positive.

Make the decision to be positive, every day and in every way.  What we say and do has an impact on those around us and being positive feels great.  “If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.” Buddha

As leaders, we are always “on”.  Every minute of everyday, we have little people looking to us for a smile, a high-five or a kind word, and it is our job to provide these things.  As leaders, we are also guiding, encouraging and empowering the adults around us to be the best they can be for all children…what better way to model this is by being positively positive.

How To Be Positively Positive?

1.  Be optimistic as you make your way to work.  Remember that being positive everyday is a journey…and not a destination.

2.  Smile and high-five each child you meet today, tomorrow and everyday.  This will not only brighten your day, it will brighten their day, too!

3.  Remember, you are in charge of how you feel and how you feel and act affects those around you.  Spreading positives will change the culture of your school…watch and see what happens!

4.  Write a note, send a compliment or say something positive to a colleague or member of your crew.  Your kind words and supportive actions may be just what was needed at that moment!

5.  Help children to see the “I Can” in their work, day and mindset.  Show children that being positive can change their lives.  Be Positively Positive!

 

Source: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

 

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!

 

 

 

Less is More

Early Christmas Vacation…Not what you think!

Less is more has become my mantra over the last few weeks after having a fall at school on December 12th.  This fall resulted in me having my first ambulance trip to the hospital and an early Christmas Break, due to a mild concussion and back and neck pain.  The good news is that I am on the mend and plan on heading into 2018 with a renewed purpose and passion for learning and leading.

Having to take time off from work has not been without a sense of guilt on my part.  I do not “rest” easily so the time away from the everyday routine of school life has presented me with more time to reflect.  Through my reflections Less is More has become the theme that seems to be guiding me into 2018…

Less is More…

  • doing less because of an injury has allowed my body to heal more quickly
  • working less has allowed others to lead more
  • taking time off work has allowed my crew to do more; they have stepped up and have realized they are the awesome leaders I know them to be!

As leaders, we are always doing so much for our schools; for our teachers, students and parent community because we are passionate about our roles.   This has been my role as an elementary principal…to serve others…and it thrills me to be able to support my “crew” to be the best they can be in their teaching and with the students they serve on a daily basis.

The Opportunity to Lead

In speaking with my assistant superintendent while I have been off work, she reiterated what I know to be true about my crew and that is that they are awesome.  People step up and lead when opportunities arise and this is exactly what my crew did.  My crew wanted to do more so that I could do less…because, they said, I do so much!  I was humbled to hear this but at the same time very proud of the team we have become.  The message was that they were happy to take over and give back!

Maybe doing less is more and this realization has resulted in my reflection and focus for 2018.

Jimmy Casa, in his book, Culturize states… As leaders we need to do a better job of focusing on less and doing it better while providing more time and the right support for our teachers.  I believe focusing on less while providing more can be applied across the greater school community.

How is Less More?                                  

In our classrooms…

  • less adult talking and more student talking
  • less talking and more listening
  • less talk time and more think time
  • less worksheets and more “hands on”
  • less busy work and more passion projects
  • less sitting and more moving

In our office…

  • less lecturing from adults…more opportunities for students to feel listened to
  • less comments about being tardy and more “We are happy to see you!” phrases
  • less negative and more positive phone calls home to celebrate kids

On our playgrounds…

  • less competition and more kindness
  • less exclusion and more inclusion
  • less complaining and more positive talk from students and adults
  • less conflict and more getting along

In my role as principal and leader…

  • less guilt about doing everything…more focus on fewer tasks
  • less office time and more student time
  • less paperwork and more meaningful conversations
  • less work and more family time

Living and developing a less is more philosophy will be scary, I won’t lie.  However, I am committed to being more to myself and my family.  When we become more to ourselves, the benefits will spill over into all facets of our lives and isn’t this the greatest gift we can give to others?

 

Being more PIRATE…#BlogLAP

In my attempt to be more ‘PIRATE’ about blogging, I will be charting my course over several posts using my own version of the PIRATE acronym.  I am ready to see where blogging takes me.  My hope is to be able to make this a habit-changing practice for myself.

P…Purpose Planning Passion Pay Attention

Purpose

I made a decision to chart a course and to start blogging!  My daring, risk-taking declaration was made in a previous post Blog Like a Pirate #BlogLAP.  Truth is, I ‘started’ to blog many times and have never stuck with it.  What is different this time?  What has changed and how will I stick with it?

I had great passion as a teacher for the learning that took place in my classrooms and now as a leader in my school.  My passion for learning has always been to share and encourage others around me.  I have been an educator for many years now and wish to start writing about what I have come to know.  My purpose is to share my writing in order to see what I think.  Hopefully, along the way, others will read with me as I chart this course.

Planning

Planning for blogging this time around will involve some organizational habits.  I like to keep a paper journal for ideas as they come to me.  I still enjoy the physical aspect of writing in a journal and do this daily as part of being a principal in an elementary school.  I also use Google Keep © on my phone and laptop.  I have several draft posts in Google Keep and find it easy to use when I am away from my office.  I like the fact that I can open notes on my PC and am able to edit on various devices.

The paper journal contains ideas that nag at me or make me think.  Usually a comment someone has made or something I have read nags at me until I write it down.  Once the idea or thought is recorded, I can then put it aside until I feel I can write about it.  My plan is to keep a working list of topics on hand, both online and on paper, so I do not use the excuse that I do not have anything to write about!

The challenge for me will be making blogging a habit.  In order to make this a habit, I will need to plan and set a scheduled time to blog.  As this is currently my summer vacation, I have time on my hands.  Once school begins in a few weeks, I will be scheduling a time for blogging.  I will block that time in my calendar and will hold myself accountable.  My thinking is that I may try to write in the early morning as this seems to be a time when I can manage this.  I will also block 10 to 15 minutes during the day where I will record topics and moments with students and teachers that I feel would be great blogging posts or topics.

Passion

In Lead Like a Pirate, Shelley Burgess @burgess_shelley and Beth Houf @BethHouf challenge us to think about what our passions ARE and what they are NOT.  Some of the questions they raise are:

  • Specific to leadership, what are you most passionate about?
  • Within the profession of education, but not specific to leadership, what are you passionate about?
  • Outside of your profession, what are you most passionate about?

Passions are the things we love and for many of us drew us to education and keep us excited about our role as leaders in our schools.  Taking my lead from the questions provided above, I will be identifying my passions and will use the list generated from the questions as topics for future blog posts.

Paying Attention

In my attempt to blog, I wish to use it as a way to pay closer attention to my own learning as well as the learning of others.  This paying attention will help build rapport with students and staff members and, hopefully, will challenge the thinking around why we do what we do and how we can improve our practice over time.  My hope is that by consciously paying attention to the learning that is taking place within our classrooms and throughout our schools, I will be able to take what I am learning and articulate into a post for myself and others.

I would like to leave you with a few questions of my own…

  • What are your own reasons for blogging?
  • How do you make time in your schedule to blog?
  • What does your planning look like when it comes time to blog and post?
  • How has your thinking changed since becoming a blogger?

Blog Like a Pirate #BlogLAP

I Did It!

I did it!  And it is scary and exciting at the same time!  Today I made a decision to chart a course of sorts…to start blogging…for real!  Blogging has been on mind a lot lately. Everything I read and every other tweet on Twitter contains a link to a blog post.  Have you noticed that there have been dozens of blogs popping up all over the internet lately?  Have we have reached a tipping point?  It has been incredible to read blog posts from so many innovative and awesome educators.  Thank you for sharing your successes, struggles and wonderings with us.

Reading and following blogs is a daily habit and Ilearn-people, quite frequently, think that I should blog.  Truth is, I start to blog and never stick with it.  I have a trail of well intentioned one-post blogs gathering dust on defunct sites in various places.  I have pondered the question of why don’t I blog and carry a healthy dose of guilt for not taking the risk of sharing my reflections with others.

But today is the day!  What has changed for me?  To be honest, I am not sure!  Maybe it has been the free time I have had at home during my summer vacation?  Maybe I finally feel confident enough to take a risk?  Maybe I want to be a better leader by modelling good practice.  Maybe the time is just right to blog Like a Pirate!

Blogging…When the Time is Right

Blogging will happen when the time is right.  That is what I have said in the past; putting it off until the time is right. Well, I have decided that today is the time.  A few reasons why:

  • I read great blogs online that deal with innovation, leadership, reflection, student voice, mindset, etc…
  • I follow great educators on Twitter who inspire, encourage and model leadership and innovation in so many ways
  • I love being part of Twitter and I want to share and grow as an educational leader

My Past Reflections about Blogging

Excuses and Reasons

Below are some of the excuses and reasons why I thought I didn’t have time to blog.  They have included:

  • no time to blog, no time in my schedule
  • takes too much time to record my thoughts
  • nothing to blog about
  • who wants to read what I write about
  • my ideas around education are not new and exciting
  • I am not innovative like those other educators!
  • risk of sharing
  • what will others think
  • I have nothing worth sharing

#BlogLAP is Born

As I was reading my feed on Twitter, I got thinking about hashtags and what makes a hashtag popular.  I was exploring popular educational and leadership hashtags and wanted to see if I could create a hashtag that would resonate with me.  I have been so excited and drawn to the whole Like a Pirate philosophy that has been driven by Dave and Shelley Burgess and their amazing books, by amazing educators, that they have published through their company.  The hashtag was so obvious!  My goal of starting to blog, coupled with the PIRATE principles was exactly what I was looking for!  And when I searched for #BlogLAP on Twitter, the hashtag didn’t exist.  What a treasure!  I was so excited and wanted to put it out to my PLN, today.  That is how #BlogLAP was born.

Sticking With It

This is the part of blogging that I struggle with.  But this is the part of my practice that I would like to improve and develop into habit.  To begin charting my course I will:

  • read and support others who blog; those who are out there taking risks to share their thinking with us
  • blog each week to grow as an educational leader; to develop my professional growth and learning
  • blog because I am learning that I have valuable insights and wonderings to share and offer
  • be a model for others in my school, district and PLN

Forming the Blogging Habit

Ideas and thoughts hang on and scratch at me until I write them down.  Getting thoughts and ideas out of my head and onto a journal page has been my practice and, until now, it has worked for me.  What I have reflected upon and the habit I would like to form is blogging online and sharing my reflections with the wider educational community.  I want blogging to be a feel good practice that helps me to put into words what I think.

 Blogging is Our Job

George Couros wrote a post a while back entitled “Blogging is Your Job”.  In this post he states that blogging is your job and “When you look at it as an extra, it will not likely get done.  When you see it as ‘part of your job’, it will get done.” It is my hope to insert  blogging into my schedule because it is part of my job.  I want to share my reflections with others in the hopes that I grow as an educator and learner.  I want to use this blog to document my own journey into blogging Like A Pirate…

I hope this journey of blogging provides me with lots of feedback from educators.  Feedback is of great value.  Feedback can challenge our ways of thinking but can also support us to let us know that we are on the right track as educators and leaders in our schools and roles.  Feedback from others is valuable and helps to define and challenge our thinking and learning.  Now is time to chart the course for places unknown!  What treasures will we discover?  Join me and remember to chart your course to include the #BlogLAP.

why-blog

Make MAGIC Happen…

A work bee gathered this past week to weed and reclaim our school garden with the idea that it will be a learning space for all to use this fall.  A little girl and her gramma came and offered their compliments to the work being done.  One of the mom’s asked if the little girl would be starting Kindergarten in the fall.  The conversation continued about how this child is so familiar with our school, the playground, the teachers and other children because she has been so involved in early childhood programs at our school for so long.

The conversation made me wonder about our student’s first school experiences.   I posed this question to our group:  “I wonder what goes through a child’s mind when they come to school for the first time in Kindergarten?  Will it be everything they hope it will be or will it be disappointing to them because school is not what they imagine it to be”.  I then went on to say to the group: “I want to make school magical for our students.”

What does it mean to make MAGIC in our schools?

When I began thinking about wanting to make our school MAGICAL, I tried to define MAGIC in simple terms but couldn’t capture the meaning of what I was trying to express.  Instead, what came to me were words.  Words that elicited more questions than answers.  I have attempted to take these words and to connect them in a way that explains what MAGIC can look like in our schools.

M Motivate… Meaning… Making a Difference…

What is our MOTIVATION?  Our mission and purpose needs to be clear in the hearts and minds of all who work and play in our buildings and on our playgrounds.  What type of experiences are we offering our students, teachers and our community members?  Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate, says that if we…provide an uncommon experience for our students…they will reward [us] with an uncommon effort and attitude.  Think about that statement for a moment.  An uncommon experience to elicit uncommon effort and attitude?  I want to provide that uncommon experience to our school community.

To build on the point above, are we making MAGIC by providing memorable experiences that engage, challenge and build up our students?  Children and teachers, in fact all of us, seek MEANING in what we do.  Through meaning we find out what is important to us.  Once we discover what is important to us, what our passions are, then we can begin to set goals for ourselves.  As educators it is important to find out what students are passionate about so that we can fuel that passion to foster engagement…that is where, I believe, the MAGIC happens.

How do we MAKE A DIFFERENCE for students?  What simple things can we do each day to welcome, acknowledge and build up our students?  Simple things such as greeting students by name as they come in to our schools and classrooms.  High-fives in the hallway, asking how their weekend went…the little things, we know, can have the greatest impact.  How is your school community MAKING A DIFFERENCE in the education of your students?

A   Approach… Acknowledge… Amazing… Awesome…

What is our APPROACH to learning and teaching?  When I look at what teachers are doing in classrooms, there is great work happening.  Many teachers are fired up and are trying new things.  Teachers are stepping outside their comfort zone because they know this is where the MAGIC happens.

As leaders we are here to provide the support and the means for teachers to take risks.  If we value new ideas as being important to our school culture, then we need to allow everyone to have a voice and to explore new ways of doing things.  Our role is to support, lead and, most importantly, ACKNOWLEDGE the AMAZING and AWESOME work teachers are doing each and everyday with our students.  How do you approach learning in your school and what are you doing to make school amazing and awesome for all?

G   Guiding… Growing… Growth…

What are our GUIDING principles?  Guiding principles are those precepts that guide an organization through its life in all circumstances irrespective of changes in its goals,  strategies, type of work or top management.  (http://www.businessdictionary.com)

Our schools must be guided by a district vision that is alive in all that we do for students and their families, teachers and support staff.  School goals may change, new ways of doing things come and go, but in the end we always need to have a place to come back to and guiding principles provide us with that important anchor.

How do we ensure that students are GROWING and learning and how do we measure GROWTH?  Students must develop core competencies such as critical thinking, creative thinking,  social responsibility, personal awareness and responsibility, positive personal and cultural identity, and communication skills.  These ‘core competencies’ are at the centre of the redesign of the curriculum here in British Columbia, Canada.  They are believed to be the key proficiencies that all students need to develop in order to engage in deep learning and life-long learning. (https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/competencies)

I   Inspiration… Investment… Innovation

What is our INSPIRATION?  What inspires teachers to keep doing this job with passion?Watching students grow and approach their learning in such diverse ways is an amazing experience to witness as a teacher and now as a principal in an elementary school.  Every day I get to experience students and teachers who love learning and who come to work full of energy and enthusiasm…it is through this enthusiasm and love of learning that I believe the MAGIC happens.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those students who come through our doors not eager to learn or not enthusiastic about school.  Where is the MAGIC for these students?  It takes time, trust and lots of relationship-building to reach some of our students, but it is worth it.  We know that developing trust doesn’t happen over night and we know that it can be hard work.  In the end, I hope that students are able to see the INVESTMENT adults  are making in them and maybe they will come to understand that the relationships being forged are strong.

INVESTING not only in the learner, but also in the learning can make the school experience MAGICAL.  What does learning look like in our schools?  Are students collaborating with one another?  Are adults collaborating with one another?  Who is doing the most talking?  Teachers or students?  What does the learning sound like in our schools?  Excitement, noise, conversation, positive interactions and positive words?  What does the learning feel like in our schools?  Do students wonder and explore?  Do they feel satisfied about and challenged in their learning?  Do parents feel good about coming into the school and does the school have a welcoming feel to it?

Are we being innovative?  I use the term INNOVATE as George Couros defines it in his book Innovator’s Mindseta way of thinking that creates something new and better.  Our way of thinking requires us to create something new and better; in other words, to create MAGIC in our schools.  George identifies 8 characteristics of an innovator’s mindset.  Innovative educators are:

  • empathetic
  • problem finders
  • risk takers
  • networked
  • observant
  • creators
  • resilient
  • reflective

Are we modeling these characteristics for the students in our schools?  George states, “If we do not model these characteristics and the willingness to innovate inside the box, why would our students do anything different?  They won’t.” (Innovator’s Mindset pg. 58)  How many of the characteristics above are you modeling in your schools?

C   Come Together… Community… Celebrate

Creating a school community that is MAGICAL is a goal that I would like to explore in the coming months and years as a school leader.  We COME TOGETHER each September with the excitement of what the school year will bring.  If we are deliberate in our planning for our staff, students, and their families, we can create MAGIC.  I really believe this to be true.

Building our COMMUNITY takes time but is hard, but joyous work.  I say joyous because we get to work with children each day.  We get to experience their joys, sorrows, amazement and sense of wonder.  What an honour it is to be part of this MAGIC.

When we step back from the daily  work that we do, we must remember to CELEBRATE our successes and learning, and to do this frequently.  We don’t celebrate enough.  Celebrating the small successes on the path to greater achievements is crucial.  We need to recognize the power of coming together and forming our educational communities and we need to have lots of FUN along the way.

And so…

When I made the comment to our group of moms about wanting to make school magical, one mom said “Well, here you are in the garden, and this is MAGICAL.”  She is correct.  The MAGIC has begin for the new school year and I am so excited to be part of the journey this year.  It will be fun, hard, scary but, mostly MAGICAL!

 

How Do You Connect?

Sitting here on a rainy Saturday morning, wondering where the school week went and finding myself thinking about and preparing for next week.  This seems to be the flow of my weeks.  As I reflect upon last week, I am mindful of the connections I have made to ensure that I am doing the best for our students, staff, and families in our school community.  How do we connect?connecting-puzzle

Connecting with Kids

Being visible in the hallways, saying good morning and asking about their weekend, giving high-fives, smiling and acknowledging each child is the way that I connect with kids every day.  Starting their day with a positive connection to an adult is so important.

Being outside during recess and lunch, walking around, chatting, taking pictures, pushing kids on the swings and problem solving in the moment, is especially powerful and makes for a happy playground and school community.

Just the other day I couldn’t help but notice an upset kindergarten student who was being comforted by his grade 5 reading buddy.  I asked what was wrong and the little boy told me that his “slinky” somehow made it’s way up onto the roof of the gym.  I reassured him that we would rescue it the next time one of our carpenters was in the building.  That made him feel better.

Carpenter2 C

Luckily, the next day, we had our carpenter in to complete a work order.  I asked him if he wouldn’t mind going up onto the school roof to retrieve lost balls, toys, and most importantly, a purple slinky for a Kindergarten student.  He retrieved many lost items.  When I saw the slinky sitting on the office counter, I went to the Kindergarten classroom right away to find the student.  When I told him that the carpenter had been to the school and showed him his lost slinky, the look on his face was amazing and his beaming smile was awesome!

The connection that occurred between both of us was powerful.  In that moment he knew that adults keep promises and that I cared about his feelings of upset the day before.  Some would think that it is just a “slinky”, a meaningless toy, but for those of us building relationships with kids, the little things may be the most powerful connections we make.

Staff

The story of the boy did not stop here.  The carpenter from our district facilities office is always willing to go the extra mile for kids.  He comes into the school with a positive outlook and is always working with me to make things better in our school.  I took the time to write an email to his supervisors to share the story that you just read.  I also cc’ed our Superintendents’ because I value the work being done in our schools by everyone to educate our children.

I received an email back from the carpenter’s supervisor thanking me for the kind words and a note about how they love to hear positive things about their staff and that they will share it out to everyone at their next meeting.  The connection continues.

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Communicating with our staff takes many forms in our school.  I compose a Week at a Glance memo that outlines what is happening for the week and includes fieldtrips, speakers or visitors, assemblies, emergency drills, and when the principal is away from the school for meetings.  Staff like the information and it helps me to organize my week as well.

Classroom visits are a daily occurrence and teachers and students welcome that connection.  Sitting and chatting with individual staff members takes place at various times during the day whether it be before school, on recess duty, lunchtime, or after school.  These are the relationship building pieces!

Families

We connect with our families as often as we can and face to face or phone calls are my preference.  We have a school Website that is updated each week and parents faithfully look there for information and dates of events.  When the webpage is updated, an e-mail is sent to our school staff and families via School Connects which is an email program that can send mass emails.  We simply send a short email saying that the website has been updated and to click on the link in the email to read about what is happening at our school during a particular week.  The parents feel very informed and if other notices and announcements need to go out during the week, we use School Connects for that, too.

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@TomMartellone

Our school has a Twitter account.  We would like to include more student voice so will be trying to open that up to students in the near future.  I love the idea that @TomMartellone uses at his school that allows students to Tweet about their school under the school hashtag and Twitter handle.

Professional Connections

voxer-orangeBeing part of the #IMMOOC and now #SAVMP has introduced me to VOXER which I am loving.  I am part of the VOXER #IMMOOC book chat, have read all the posts and listen to the Voxer messages that have been sent during the month of October and into November.  The sharing that occurs in this group is incredible!

I am happy to say that I have been using VOXER to connect with my mentor @jkloczko in the #SAVMP and am loving this experience so far.  I am feeling comfortable using this and can see the benefits of growth and for connections to other educators!  I am excited to share this with my own principal colleagues, too.

What other ways are you connecting with your school community?  I would love to hear some of your innovative ideas.

 

 

Making Connections

An Idea About Connecting

Last Spring I shared with our students the idea of having lunch with myself in our school library.  I wanted to have lunch with five or six students per day, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  The invitation was shared with our teachers in the Week at a Glance memo on Monday morning and with our students via our morning announcements.  There would be a sign up sheet outside the office if students wished to sign up.

Students were quite excited about the idea and many students signed up.  There was much anticipation about having lunch in the library and the younger students in grades 1, 2, and 3 were quite curious about which day or date would be their day!  For some students, the day could not come soon enough and they asked daily when it would be their turn.

On the first day we had our lunch together, we had five students.  We gathered and began to eat and chat.  I asked each student what they were learning in their classrooms and each was quite excited to share.  As the students spoke, it was easy to see the enjoyment they felt about having lunch in a small, quiet space.  But the greatest benefit that I noticed was the connection they felt to one another and to me, the school principal.

Time passed swiftly in our 25 minutes of eating time and when asked if they enjoyed their lunch…there was a resounding “Yes!” from all students.  When asked what they enjoyed the most, they said it was so fun to talk and liked how much quieter it was having lunch in the library.  It was interesting to see everyone taking turns and listening while their peers shared their thoughts and ideas about school, home and friendships.  It is very satisfying to observe how students really are tuned into what is happening in their classrooms and the learning that is taking place.

Why Connections Are Important

Getting to know the students in any school takes time.  As principal, I try to connect with students in a variety of ways.  I connect with students in their classrooms, in the hallways, on the playground, during lunch and, of course in the office, too.  Connecting with students across many areas is important when building a relationship of trust and respect.

Taking the time to connect with our students benefits all of us.  It makes for a positive school climate and culture.  The results we see are: happier kids, happier teachers, and kids who feel like they are a part of something.  We all want to feel like we are part of something!

Personal Connections

Having lunch with the principal will begin again in November and I, for one, look forward to this time with students.  As I reflect upon the highlights of last year, I had one experience that has stuck with me and sums up why we need to connect.

After everyone had packed up and headed outside to play, one little guy remained.  He was taking his time, packing up his lunch bag.  Earlier, during lunch, I noticed that he kept checking his lunch bag for something.  As he was opening the bag to put his lunch containers away, I noticed a note neatly tucked in the pocket on the inside cover.  I asked him about it.  He read the note aloud to me.  “Hi Little Man.  Hope you are having a good day.  Love Dad.”  He then placed it carefully back into his lunch bag.  Clearly, this note meant something very special to him…this was his connection to his dad during his day at school.  It was a powerful moment. 

Sometimes we are not aware of the power connections can make.  Taking the time to make that connection with that one child can have a profound effect not only on that child, but also on us adults, too. 

How are you making connections with the students at your school?  I would love to hear your story.

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