Day 28: Time

My principal had a person shadowing him today for his internship hours.  We were talking about my blogging.  He said he didn’t blog because he have time and then corrected himself that he chose not to use his time that way.

It made me think how do I spend my time:

  • I choose to spend the morning walking the track with the students in the morning.
  • I choose to spend time calling parents for the good and the bad.
  • I choose to spend time building up teachers and students.
  • I choose to spend time observing and asking questions.
  • I choose to spend time cooking meals for my family.
  • I choose to spend time every night reflecting on my day at work.
  • I choose to spend focused time with my family every night.
  • I choose to spend time reading for fun.

Tomorrow, I will consciously spend my time in ways that represent my values.


Day 27: Get out of Dodge Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about how getting out of town was good for me.  I also wanted write this other reflection about leaving town and escaping the stress.

It’s easy for me to leave Dodge.  I have to the means to.  Not all of my students have that option.  Some of my students come to school hungry, dirty and tired.  I see other students who do want to leave school.  School is where they come to be refreshed before they go home.

Other of my students dread going to school.  They worry about how they will fit in either academically or socially.  They look forward to leaving school so they will not feel judged.

I also know that neither school or home is a cushion for other students.  They have a life that would make a grown man cry and they still smile.   I was chatting with my friend Chrissy about this and she sent me this.


So what does that mean to me:

  1. I smile at every student and greet them.
  2. I look them in the eyes and really listen.
  3. I try to know every student’s name.  Getting there, but not quite there yet.
  4. I tell students that I missed them and I am glad that they are here.
  5. I create opportunities for students to give to others because it makes them feel good.
  6. I find opportunities for success.
  7. I still have high standards for my students.

I can’t wait to smile at students and create moments of joys for all my students.

Day 26: Getting out of Dodge

Last week was hard.  I am not going to lie.  At points, I wanted to cry, scream and leave all at the same time, but I didn’t.   Instead, I did a smart thing and left town on Friday night.  I left work early for me, loaded the car and drove to Minneapolis to see family and friends.

By the time the car had passed Iowa City, my school brain had turned off.  The long to-do list disappeared and all that remained was my focus on my kids.  It was wonderful to really be in the moment enjoying my family and friends.  I crammed so much in. The giggles and laughing still fill my head.

Tomorrow, I will return with a renewed sense of drive because of this weekend.

The big take-away is even when it gets busy I need to take the time to stop and recharge. I am better when I am fresh.

This week’s plan for recharging include:

  • Reading for pleasure
  • Early bedtime
  • Outings with each of my kids
  • A long phone call to a Texas friend

What are you going to do to recharge your brain?

Day 24: #Ilovemyschool

I love my school.  Let me count the ways.

  1. The office staff-see this post
  2. The school counselor-see this example
  3. The principal- see this, this and this to name a few
  4. The Justice League-This group’s members include the principal, the counselor, the play therapist, the behavior interventionist and myself.
  5. The teachers-who welcomes our students every day, sets high expectations and helps our students get there.
  6. The para educators-who smile and work right next to the teachers
  7. The lunch ladies-the know the students and makes sure everyone eats.
  8. The volunteers-they spend time reading and talking to our students.  They go on field trips, coach baseball and lead our cub scout troop.
  9. The students-they take risks to learn everyday.  They learn so much.
  10. The janitors -they make sure the school is spotless and jump in where needed.

I love my school essentially because everyone says, “Yes” to learning and challenges.

Day 23: Am I normal?

So often we get excited (okay I do) about the people that read our blogs that are far away.  I was on cloud nine about the click from Kenya.  I think the more profound impact I have is on my local readers.  I already wrote about how my future principal understood me before we really met.  I also have a couple of other people in my school who read what I write.  One particular teacher has given me an audience to visualize and we have had some great conversations because of it

This teacher is unfortunately not at my school every day.  I share her with another school, but I always search her out when she is at my school.  I love to hear what she thinks.  My favorite complement was about how she really didn’t understand blog until she read mine.  She also knows me deeply because she reads everything I write and because of that she reminds me of my philosophy and beliefs when busyness gets in the way.  Thank you my friend for being there!

As transparent as I am at my school, why don’t I feel comfortable sharing with everyone the fact that I blog.  If you asked most teachers in my building do I blog or do you know where to find my blog, they would say no.  Why am I afraid to share it with my work collegues but not afraid for a person in Keyna to read it?  How do I get over this fear?  Bloggers please let me know am I normal?

Day 22: Friendship-Lessons in and out of school

I recently recommended Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing to my principal, but I think I may need to recommend to my school counselor as well.  As the year is ending, friendships issues have been a source of tension in both girls and boys groups at my school.

Bronson & Merryman suggest that male and female have different friendships.  Males even at infancy prefer groups.  Studies of preschooler find that girls play in pairs more than boys.  Females want their friend to be an equal, while male groups are hierarchical.  Pair friendships can be more fragile than group friendships because they do not have “greater purpose.”

How does this research in my school?

  • Many conflicts between the girls at my school arise when one of them perceives the other friend of not holding up their end of the bargain.  They are struggling with friends choosing to play with someone else at the playground.
  • The conflicts between the boys occur when they don’t understand that someone is not playing in the group.  Often times the boy assumes that another boy is involved in the horseplay, but is not and reacts as if it was sign of disrespect.

What can I do about this?

  • Share the friendship differences to the teachers so they can understand the conflict cycle that is occurring.
  • Analyze the issue with this lens to respond more effectively.
  • Spend time working with the girls to communicate clearly to the friend that she feels slighted.
  • Explicitly teach body language to the boys in class so they can decide if the friend is playing the game.
  • Create opportunities for the groups to work cooperatively to achieve a greater purpose.

In addition to seeing it in action at school, I also have my own real-life examples. It might explain why some friendships became strained when one of us had a boyfriend.  It also would explain why I prefer to hang out with just one friend or in even numbers.  I thought of a friend who got the job I wanted, but she said to me, “I only got the job because….”  That It would also explain why my husband did not understand why I complained about a friend that I always had to call.  In my personal life, I will quit keeping score with friends.  I chose my friends because they make me better.  

Day 21: Quiet Heroes of the School

Tomorrow is administrative professional appreciation day. This is my thank you letter to all of the great administrative professionals I have worked with:

Dear ___________,

Thank you for being a smiling face welcoming parents to our school.  You make our families feel that their children will be cared for.  Thank you for remaining calm while others around are not. Thank you for answering the phone so quickly and calmly.  The office is a calm place because you create that atmosphere.  I see you bring things from home to make the office festive for different holidays.

Thank you for welcoming the late students with a smile.  They know you are glad they are here.  Thank you for drying the tears of a student whose parent forgot to pick them up.  Thank you inviting students who need you to eat lunch with them.  Thank you for finding a job for students who need responsibility.  Our children need you!

Thank you for being kind to every teacher.  Thank you for making me laugh when I needed to.  Thank you for sharing your snacks.  Thank you for listening to me.  Thank you for understanding me.  Thank you for answering my silly questions as well as my important questions.  Without you my job would be impossible.

Thank you for doing all of this and so much more.

Day 20: Leadership Lessons from the Muppets Most Wanted

Disclosure: I hate watching movies.  I can’t sit still long enough without a sense of guilt.  My family loves to watch movies and TV.  I sat on the couch tonight to make my family happy….

I know I have blogged enough lately that I can learn an educational lesson from anything.  Tonight’s lesson is from Muppets Most Wanted(yes I know it has been out for a while).

  1. Don’t rub in the fact that you are number 1.  

Be the leader who inspires others instead using your role to command others.  Kermit leads the Muppets effectively because he respects them.  Constantine did not lead but used his role to make decisions.

2. It’s OK to say no to some team member’s ideas.  Running of the Bulls on Stage, Celine Dion tribute and 4 hour drum solo should have been told No.  Of course, Constantine said, “Yes.” to keep the team happy instead of what was better for the show.  So the question, we need to ask is “Is this good for our students?”  If not, a responsible leader would say no to the request.

The real lesson is I learned is it is important to spend time with my family doing their favorite things.  The hugs, giggles and laughs were worth my discomfort.  I am better educator because I spent that time with them tonight.

Day 19: What Every Principal Needs

I’ve worked for sixteen years in schools.  I’ve read the research that says principals need to be the instructional leader of the school.  I watched principals try to be that person, but it seems that they get buried with other duties.  My principal this year is able to be the instructional leader.

Why is he different?

The easy answer is he is amazing.  The more complex answer is he has a School Administration Manager(SAM) and uses it.  I am lucky enough to be his SAM.  My job includes a list of things that principals do.  I have worked with facilities to put up temporary walls and coordinated moves.  The secretaries know to ask can I help that person because the principal is in the classroom observing teachers.  If you think of something a principal does that does not directly relate back to instruction, I probably do it.  I love spending the time scheduling his week so he sees all of the quality instruction that occurs in our classrooms.

My favorite part of the day is sitting and reflecting on his impact on instruction.  We walk through his day and plan for follow-up.  I also share data and ask reflecting questions.  Even if time is pressed, I ask him how did he impact instruction and what feedback do I need to schedule.  I also know enough about his professional journey that I send him selected reading that I think will impact his growth.  Right now, I am recommending that he and anyone else who enjoyed The Power of Habit read Top Dog.

I believe he spends the majority of the day working with instruction because I help lift the load and he trusts that I will.

In a perfect world, every principal will have me.  Unfortunately, that won’t happen.  So every principal needs a SAM.  If that won’t work, they need a person on their staff to be his/her mirror to help them reflect on the day.

Day 17.5: TGIF…I Mean TGIS

I want to admit that I choose sleeping instead of blogging last night and for that I am grateful.  I knew I needed my sleep when I started nodding off during family movie time.  I knew I needed sleep when I fell asleep on the floor as I was help Little Bit fall asleep.

Here’s a list of great things in my life:

  • My husband: He has quit his job two different times.  The first was to move across the ocean to marry me and the second time to move our little family closer to my family.  He is the reason our kids adjusted to move so successfully.  If you want a stellar example of a father, you should meet my husband.
  • Big Boy & Little Bit: They amaze me each and everyday.  They invent new games together.  When Little Bit won’t follow my directions, Big Boy asks her to do the exact same thing and she does it right away.
  • My Principals: I love that they are actively working together to make the transition smoothly.  I know that they have deep profound conversations.  They both speak about the other with respect.  This model of transition should be implemented everywhere.
  • The teachers and staff of my school: On Friday, a teacher left a snack on my desk because she knows that I need snacks during the day to be my best.  The office staff left me a plant and chocolate on my desk with a great note.  When another person went to Tasti-Freeze, they brought me back a pork tenderloin sandwich (Iowans are serious about this sandwich).  This is just one example of how I have been welcomed into the Monroe family.

As I look at my list, I think the theme is people.  The things around me are fine, but the people in my life make amazing and magical.