Thursday, December 16, 2010

Enveloped By Others

It is nice when islands connect. Today, another island connected as I listened to this TED talk on learning, real learning, authentic learning. The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia isn't a new place for me. The principal and teachers from this school are out talking about their programming in a number of ways. It is comforting though to know that you aren't the only school out there trying to do things the right way, not caving to test prep and state requirements. I trust our process. I know our model is good and headed to great, but there are days when it feels lonely. There aren't other public expeditionary learning, 1:1 schools in Saint Louis, so here we are to rise alone or sink alone. Today, I think we will rise, but I can see across to the next island and so today we don't feel so alone.

Meeting Basic Needs

Every once in a while, I have an experience in my work that is both insanely frustrating and moments later completely fulfilling. Last night during the band and choir concert, I realized that the front stairs were beginning to ice over. The concert was less than five minutes from its finale, and the custodians didn't know where to find the salt for the front stairs. By a crazy set of prior circumstances, I knew where the ice melt was, rushed to the get two five pound bags, and started feverishly applying it to the stairs. We were able to get everyone out safely.

The purpose of mentioning this story goes beyond the success of the evening. When moments like these happen, I really enjoy my job. There is something really fulfilling about providing the basic needs for kids. I get the same feeling when I drive a student home when it is cold or provide lunch for a student that is hungry. Most of my day consists of planning for the future, thinking big, talking to teachers, and enjoying the company of the students in the building. These are all parts of the reason why I love my job, but there is something special about doing the little things for people.

It is probably the same feeling that nurses, firemen, and other first responders feel each day. I'm glad to be in a position that allows for these opportunities. I believe that too often we forget about the little things that our students and our teachers need. Hopefully, we can all find a few more ways to give in this way in the coming weeks and months.

Merry Christmas from The Dillons

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stepping Off the Accelerator

Life as a first year principal has been wonderful, challenging, and filled with smiles, but as the Christmas holiday approaches, I find myself taking my foot off of the accelerator. The desk is clearing. The long-term list is shrinking and being converted to the 2011 list, but the oddest thing is that slow doesn't feel comfortable. I am experiencing the annual physical aches and pains that come from slowing down. This probably means that my life is too fast. It is consumed with direct messages, 140 word statements, e-mails, and voicemail. My thoughts lack clarity in these moments. I fall out of the flow. Life isn't the same at this pace. It isn't as much fun, but I know that it is needed. I need to rebalance, recharge, find zen. I want to find a good book, workout daily, have mornings without kid noise, and try to travel in a daily way that appreciates all that is around me.

Does anyone else experience this malaise of actually having a break in the pace, speed, and momentum of life? I can't be the only one, but it does feel lonely.

How do other people handle this slow down? Is it possible to go cold turkey on work especially when you love your work, you are passionate about your work, and when your work is your calling?

I'm trying my best to ease my way into Friday. Let the final day of school be a part of the transition, so my family doesn't experience these moments of downshifting as the break begins. Wish my luck. This is harder than it seems.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fearing Mediocrity More Than Failure

I have been hanging on this mantra for some time now as I look to push for excellent programming and best practices at my school. I have been reading other blogs about the importance of failure and the fears that administrators have for their kids , and I realize that so many of us are wandering around in the same woods. It isn't about being lost, but it is about looking for the shortest path. It is about taking a bearing, trusting the bearing, and attacking full steam ahead. It feels good to be have company in the woods. This seat can be a lonely place, and the voices of others keep the loneliness at bay.

Below is an excerpt from George Couros' blog link above. What a great list to drive our thinking forward.

As I thought about the “traditional” list of fears that have popped up as we progress, they were not driving me at all. I sat back and thought about what “fear” drives me. Here they are:

Fear of students learning “compliance” instead of just “learning”.
Fear of students asking why they have no grade on their report card because they don’t know how they are doing.
Fear a student asks “why are there no awards” because I have not taken the time to show them I value them every chance I get.
Fear that we teach our students that rewards should drive their learning, not their passion.
Fear that we prepare our students to be good at school, instead of being good at life.
Fear of the world changing around our schools, while we stay the same.
Fear that students will NOT ask powerful questions.
Fear that students will not see themselves as artists.
Fear that students will not have the opportunity to create and collaborate.
Fear that we are not giving students opportunities to lead within our school.
Fear that we do not focus on the importance of connections and relationships.
Fear that our students and staff are not having fun.
Those are some of the fears that drive me. I am blessed that I have the opportunity to work with a community that puts my mind to rest

What fear drives you?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

It is adventure race weekend, but I didn't want to break tradition.

In an effort to make your journey into Google reader a bit easier, I found this great bundle of resources that houses 75 subscriptions for education.

Great article find by TKA. We have to make sure that we are just moving the deck chairs around on the Titantic, but instead building a speed boat to move closer to our destination and as far away from the sinking ship as possible.

These next few weeks lend themselves to the need have greater classroom structures to maximize learning. Cooperative learning structures are an excellent way to achieve this. There are number of great resources and ideas lower in this post. --

As we start to think about students using twitter as a learning experience, here is a really good rubric to judge learning through twitter.

As we continue to uncover the mission and vision of our stewardship program, it seems like this focus on the five global giants may hold some promise.

Middle School Beauty and Art

I have bought into the idea that beauty is in the eye of beholder for a long time, but this TED talk has shifted my beliefs in this area. There is universal beauty, and we are doing students a disservice in elementary and middle school art classes by claiming differently. It seems very important for us to level with students that it takes hard work, possibly 10,000 hours to become good at something. Our art classes are space and time to work toward these expert levels as well as enjoy the act of creating art. Please be honest with your students that there are beautiful things that aren't open for opinion, and we are on a mission each day to find them. The debate will erupt and that is good.