It’s officially a wrap! The staff and students at Intermediate District 287 completed another successful first day of school. I have worked in 287 since August of 2008, and today I observed the smoothest school start-up since I joined the district. Congratulations to everyone that made today the success it was. I am truly honored to be part of such an amazing team of passionate educators.
While we could focus on the things that weren’t quite ready, or the minor glitches that occurred here or there, let’s focus on the overwhelmingly positive things. I am going to focus on the overwhelming acts of caring and kindness I observed while out in our sites. At one of our schools, I overheard a staff member gently listening to a student that was anxious about their first day of school; I saw a concerned principal hold a meeting to discuss a student’s well-being, and I saw many other support staff giving everything they had to meet staff and student needs.
I just wanted to give a quick shout out to everyone that works in 287. Together we rocked the first day of school!
This year our superintendent’s back to school presentation was very different from previous years for one reason. This year we are taking action on a topic that we have avoided for way too long: Racial Equity. In preparation for her presentation, our superintendent tasked our communications director with creating a video about race and how the color of our skin has impacted our lives. I was one of the individuals interviewed in this video.
Being vulnerable by sharing where I’m at with race and my white privilege, and hearing the stories of my co-workers, had a significant impact on me. I need to begin by issuing the sincerest of all apologies for the unintentional hurt I have caused my close friends and co-workers that are not white. For any and all things I have done out of ignorance, I am truly sorry, and I hope you can forgive me. I promise to actively work on this each and every day so that I am not unintentionally perpetuating racial inequities.
Last but not least, I am inviting anyone in our school district to bring any racial or systemic inequity to my attention, and I promise to do everything I can to eliminate it. I am proud to work for an amazing organization that is led by a committed superintendent and leadership team that is taking action on this important work. I am also energized by the opportunity to work with an amazing staff of educators that are dedicated to racial equity.
In addition to our internal equity work, it is also important for all 287 employees to know that Superintendent Lewandowski is working tirelessly at the legislative level to address inequities such as Intermediate ALC funding, that provides fewer resources for our ALC students as opposed to independent school districts. Through our internal and external equity work, together we will make a difference.
I’ll cut right to the chase. Every educator should have, or be working towards, developing an innovator’s mindset. In chapter 2 of “The Innovator’s Mindset“, George Couros is very clear about the fact that he believes every educator should have an innovator’s mindset, and I agree 100%.
If we become complacent and do what we’ve always done, not only will we be unable to meet all students’ needs, we are not modeling the mindset the world will demand of our students. As lead learners, we must be open to possibilities, taking risks, and reflecting on the work we do.
Last week I attended the MDE Back to School Workshop, and the keynote speaker shared this video of a boy that stumbled upon a fallen tree in the middle of the road. Everyone there just looked at the tree, probably believing it was immovable. Amidst all the adults that were resigned to the fact that they couldn’t do anything about this huge tree, the boy just started pushing.
The video reminded me that having a growth mindset and being open to possibilities, also requires taking the lead when nobody else is. Having an innovator’s mindset is great, but it’s more than that. Simply having an open mind is not enough to make a difference. Just like the kid (leader) in the video, we have to take action and just go for it!
After having read chapter 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset, the big question that stood out to me was, “Have schools forgotten their why?” I thought this was the perfect opportunity to take a few steps back and pull out my educational philosophy and leadership beliefs, to see if those still align with what I truly believe school should be for students today. I would love to hear what others in our district think about my beliefs in education and leadership, as I’m sure I will be challenged to think differently and could stand to learn a great deal from them.
I feel that if we don’t go back to the basics of our beliefs, and particularly, the purpose of school, then moving beyond that towards innovative solutions could be very challenging.
Pick up any education magazine today and you’re sure to find an article or research on the declining enthusiasm for the teaching profession. I just read this article in the District Administration magazine, and the author states that the root cause for dissatisfaction among teachers is that they are not getting a voice at the table when decisions are made, or policies are created and revised.
This post is a reminder to myself, and to anyone else who reads it, to always ask a teacher for their opinion, or involve them in any process, that will ultimately have an impact on their ability to facilitate the learning process.
Leaders today are responsible for developing an organizational culture that fosters innovation, collaboration, risk taking and results. Of all the things that a leader could do to improve their culture, the thing I’ve seen have the biggest impact is extremely simple. You don’t have to read a bunch of books and attend leadership conferences to do it either.
Spend time with your students and staff as much as possible, and be yourself!
Ensure that time spent in classrooms is one of your top priorities, and not a luxury when you have spare time. Ask your students and staff if their needs are being met on a regular basis too.
If you do these two things, you will see your culture transform before your very eyes. In the end, it’s all about relationships, and this applies to both students and adults.
Saying goodbye to a family pet is so hard. We had Buddy in our family for 13 years, and this guy was no ordinary dog; he was my best friend. It didn’t matter if I had a bad day and yelled at him, if I didn’t play with him when he wanted, if I didn’t give him that extra treat, or if I didn’t let him sleep on the bed with us; Buddy loved us all unconditionally.
Every single day when I walked through the door after work, he came to greet me as though I was royalty, which means he never held grudges and always forgave me for whatever I may have done to upset him. Buddy taught me a lot about the way I should be treating people I live with, people I work with, and people I don’t even know.
You will be missed dearly Buddy. Until we meet again…