Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Vision for Schools

Week #2 of the SAVMP #savmp project asked us to identify our vision and philosophy of schools as it relates to our role as leaders and what our schools should look like for our students.  The core of my educational philosophy is rooted in my role as a father.  When I make a decision, I ask myself "is this good enough for my own children?"  I view all of the students in our school as "my students" and if something is not good enough for my own three children, it is not good enough for my students.

I make it my goal each day to keep my students and teachers safe, happy while creating a love of learning. But what exactly does that look like?  What is my vision for our school community?  Here is a synopsis of what I believe in, what I work to create and what I want our schools to be models of in and around our learning environments.

1. Create an environment where everyone wants to be.
Our school community works extremely hard to create an environment where the children want to be.  Our school community works extremely hard to create an environment where the children are excited to come and are eager to return the following day.  Our school community works extremely hard to create an environment where our staff wakes up each day and views this work as our passion, not simply our work. Our school community works extremely hard to create a welcoming, inviting place for families to come to, learn with and be proud of.  We want our school to be "the place" where everyone wants to be.

2. Respect individuals.
One of our school expectations is to show respect.  Our students and teachers understand this notion but I want to take this level of respect up a notch.  I want to create a learning environment where choice is the norm and individual learning styles are understood and respected.  Allowing students the flexibility and autonomy to own their learning however they best learn in a manner that will demonstrate learning and mastery of skills and concepts by applying their learning.  Children should be encouraged to learn how they learn best - in chairs, on the floor, standing up, walking around the room... One size does not fit all and we need to help children identify how they learn best and trust them to utilize those learning opportunities. Teachers can model these opportunities and encourage children to strive for "autonomy, purpose and mastery" (Daniel Pink). The same principles apply to teachers.  Traditional PD opportunities do not work for all teachers.  That is why the edcamp model is so powerful.  Allow teachers to spend quality time observing one another and sharing their expertise with their colleagues.  As an instructional leader, I need to help understand the power behind different professional learning opportunities and model how to effectively create individual learning opportunities for all staff to grow and thrive!

3. Make today better than it was yesterday.
The goal of schools is learning - but that come in so many different ways.  It is our responsibility to meet children where they are and help move them forward.  Some students need academic help.  Others need emotional help.  Still, others need help with communication and inter-personal skills.  If we can know our children, know their needs, and work to make today better than the previous day, we have accomplished a mighty task.

4. Relationships matter.
It sounds so simple, yet it is so true.  I have been in schools where relationships did not matter very much and it was extremely evident in the culture of the building.  I spend time building trust with those I work with so they know me and I know them.  I work extremely hard to know ALL of the children's names.  I want to get to know who they are, their interests and something about them on a personal level.  I work extremely hard to know each staff member's family, their interests and passions.  I want to personalize my information I share with the teachers and I cannot possibly share blogs, articles, ideas, tweets... without knowing who they are.  I want to get to know the families and spend time building those relationships.  I recently started doing a weekly video message with the app touchcast.  I have used this service to summarize the week, share important and exciting elements at our school in a new and exciting format for our families to engage in and with.  My long-term goal would be for the teachers to all take this idea and either create their own video message each week to their families or "sub" for me and create the video for the larger school community.  I have never regretted spending time getting to know someone on a personal level.  I value those trusting relationships. People know I will die on the hill for them and they will do the same for me because of the relationships we have built.

5. Lead by Example.
I will never ask anyone to do something I would not do myself.  I am really passionate about learning, teaching, curriculum and technology.  My goal is to learn something new each day that I can share with someone.  I want to remain current on educational trends, topics, and best practices so we can collectively create the most influential, powerful and engaging learning experience for all of our teachers and students.

This list could go go on and on but I believe you get the main crux of my educational vision and philosophy - it all starts with people!  We work hard to create the environment, the culture, and the work that allows for learning to occur at all levels each and every day.  What about you?  What is your educational philosophy?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Why do I lead?

When I found out that I was selected to be a part of the #SAVMP and learn with so many wonderfully talented and experienced educators, I was thrilled.  I know I have a great deal to learn and share with others and am encouraged by the opportunity to do so with educators all around the country.

I never really envisioned my career heading into administration.  I loved what I did... kindergarten teacher, building level leadership teams, and district leadership committees.  Why would I leave what I loved doing? A good friend went back to get her degree in administration and asked me to join her so we could have some classes together.  After talking it over with my principal at the time, I thought it might be something nice to have in my back pocket if I ever wanted to move that direction.  But I never really envisioned leaving the classroom.

I then had the opportunity to shadow a few different principals at different levels, principals I highly respected.  After seeing what they did on a daily basis, I knew a change was coming my way.  I saw the passion they had for their teachers, for their children, for their families, and for the schools and I wanted to emulate that passion.  Instead of directly impacting a classroom of 25 kindergartners, I could now impact a school of 400+ children, families and teachers.

I have never really reflected on this question before.  This simple and powerful question has forced me over the past few days to really think about why I do what I do each and every day.  As I reflected on this question, the same reasons kept popping into my mind over and over.

1. The main reason I love the position I am in is because of the relationships.  I am privileged to be a part of many lives day in and day out.  As a leader, I get the chance to work with children, families and teachers in a variety of settings.  I get to know about them personally and professionally and they get to know me, my family and who I am.  I enjoy and look forward to building those relationships.  Those relationships are the foundation for our challenging work.  When I truly know people and they know me, we are more willing to work together for a common goal.

2.  I love the position I am in because I can grow and learn.  Being a school administrator, I get the privilege of being in all different classrooms.  I have the wonderful experience of seeing the best of the best in all grade levels.  This opportunity allows me to grow and develop my craft as an educator.

3.  I love the position I am in because I get to help be an advocate for the children.  There are times when children don't have a voice.  Every decision I make centers around what is best for the children and teachers. When I keep that the best interest of the children in mind, I know I am making the correct decision, even when people do not like a decision.

What better reasons are there to lead?  I get to form relationships with others.  I get to learn with and from others.  And I can help children be successful.  Why wouldn't I lead?

I am excited to learn with and from Amber, Amanda and Chris and all of #savmp during this journey!