Recently I read a very candid and reflective post by Tim Scholze who was reflecting on the question if head reached his technology potential and now experiencing “digital overload”. His post inspired me to reflect on this past year which drew me back to my very first post in June of 2012. As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same.
When I started MiddleMan2012 it was as a way for me to 1) share what I’ve learned as an instructional leader, 2) share my personal thoughts and ideas about education and 3) a way to share my experiences with aspiring administrators (#aspiringadmin). Innovators like Bridgette Wagoner (@B_Wagoner), Trace Pickering ( @tracepick), Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth) and Nancy Movall (@nmovall) had helped refuel my passion for teaching and learning. Many of the ideas shared between us would find their way into discussions and meetings back at school. Back then, some of this stuff was pretty out there for most people. Unwittingly these conversations while, invigorating for some, seemed to tell others that what they had been and were currently doing in classrooms was wrong. Never saw that one coming.
This year has been markedly different than the previous two. In reflecting why, I dug back (With Tim’s inspiration.) to that first MiddleMan2012 post. Had I reached my potential and was then experiencing “transformation overload”? Was my desire to transform our school clouding my vision as to how to effectively lead that transformation? Here are the five things I shared back then followed by a brief reflection through today’s lens over the past school year. Perhaps you’ll find a nugget or two to chew on this summer.
5. Character strengths can become character weaknesses. Mine did and it WILL happen to you. It’s not a matter of IF rather than WHEN. The question is, how will you react when it happens?
I have the patience of a gnat. I know what I want and I get after it. Sometimes to aggressively and not fully taking stock in where others might be in their thinking. I’m not closed off to divergent points of view. Quite the contrary. I love a good debate/discussion. My trouble is, as my lovely wife will tell you, I debate/discuss to win. Still have to fight that demon from time to time but there is a significant difference between 2012 & 2014. My sense of urgency is gone. It’s been replaced with a more metered approach as we are collectively more similar in our thinking in terms of what’s best for kids. We’ve built a level of trust and respect that doesn’t center on the needs of the big people in the building. When we “argue” for their needs and not ours, divergent thinking will lead to a convergence of action.
4. It sounds cliche but spend time reflecting on each day. List one thing you did well and one thing you’d do differently.
I still do this on a daily basis. Truth be told, I haven’t written them down this year but after completing my professional portfolio for my evaluation, the list generated itself. All year I’ve kept a file of artifacts for evaluation purposes. These artifacts have helped me create new personal and professional growth goals for next year while at the some time serving as a nice reminder that I got a few things right this year! Start a file or keep a list. However you choose to do it, these artifacts are the chicken soup for what ails you and sustains you.
3. Pace yourself. Even after 17 years I find myself still driven to get it done now. However, it cannot be at the expense of your people.
Tack on a few more years and this advice becomes even more relevant and essential for all of us. Yes I’m still driven to get it done now! But I have learned to pace myself better because the people with whom I work have such a passion for their kids and the job of being a teacher, that I don’t want to jeopardize that by overwhelming them with the next thing. I know we will get it done (standards-passed grading, Genius Hour, common formative assessments etc.) NOT because I want to but because they want to as well.
2. Take the time to get to know your teachers. Give them your time. Selflessly and unconditionally.
The best person I’ve ever seen model this was my former superintendent Stan Slessor. When you met with him, or he stopped in your school, no matter who you were, when he spoke with you, YOU were the only thing that mattered to him. I’m no Stan but I do my best every chance I get. Maybe I should get a WWSD bracelet to wear?
1. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your vision.
I actually have this exact sentence under Standard 3 of my reflective evaluation. Know what’s scarier? I didn’t realize I had used it in that very first blog until the writing of this one! For some reason that bad-boy is deeply embedded in my noggin. Maybe that gnat who hijacked by patience is buzzing around in my head for good reason? Nah! I’m still as frenetic as ever. But now I’m at a different place. Physically. Personally. Professionally.
It really ISN”T easy being me. But you know what? I’m good with that.