Go with the flow…

This morning war rough. I was presenting PD to a new group form the day before.  My partner the previous 2 days had to be elsewhere today.  I wore brown shoes with a black skirt.  My computer did not have the right output to hook-up to presentation.  My computers would play my videos.  The sound wouldn’t work.  All of this before 7:30.

At 8ish, I began my PD being shaky and uncomfortable.  I gave unclear directions.  I didn’t get into the zone as I usually do.  I felt that I was on my A game.

Or so I thought.  I was sorting through the teacher’s take-away.  When I started to group them, I felt so much better.  One of the biggest stacks was the first thing we did.

We watched:

Then we thought about our why for teacher leadership in our district or you own why.  We used a consensus map to agree on common language about why.

Here are two of my favorites:

IMG_0906 IMG_0907

I believe that this activity resonated with everyone because so often we are told what and how, but not often enough why.  A great one take-away is that: “I need to help teachers find their why.”

I was inspired to write about this part of my day by my friend Sean’s post.

5 of 25 by 8/25


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?

It could have been…

Some people can claim that they tell how the day is going to go and they said it was going to be a rough Friday.  Here’s what was happening:

  • 7 teachers had an AM training.
  • 6 teachers were gone all day.
  • Short 6 guest teachers
  • Full moon
  • First outdoor recess in forever
  • Spring break in a week

This day could have been one for the record book:

  • Very little instruction occurring
  • grouchy teachers
  • disruptive students
  • two tired irritated administrators;

But it was not meant to be that. Why?

The mindset of my principal and me.  We thought:


So I cleared my principal’s schedule to do instructional walkthroughs throughout the classrooms.  He announced that it was our favorite time of the year, the time before spring break.  We laid out the schedule so instruction for all students would occur all day.  We both made many visits to classrooms where there were guest teachers.  At key times, we present in the hallway.  We made a conscious effort to smile at every student, teacher and adult.  We had our teachers review outdoor recess procedures.

Friday was great day for our teachers!  Most would not be able to tell that many teachers were missing.  Students learned and teachers taught.

I came home exhausted but excited about the day.  The lesson I learned is


EdCamp Monroe-The Results

Wow!  Words can’t express how amazing Monday was.  I knew I worked with an amazing staff, but Monday  was a huge reminder of how great they are.

On Monday, EdCamp came to Monroe.  I was so excited that I felt like a kid at Christmas.  Teachers came nervous and excited.  As people arrived, they grabbed some breakfast and a Chromebook.  The most teachers have never used a Chromebook so this was already new learning.  I let the teachers work together to log on and figure out what to do.  I did this to create an atmosphere of teamwork and shift how PD is usually given.  During this time we created our agenda on Drive.  This also was new learning for our teachers.

Below is the agenda we created:


Time IMC Location #2 Location #3 Location #4
8-8:20AM Discussion Leader Sign-up/Chromebook use Everyone
8:20-8:35AM Session Groundrules / Q & A Everyone
8:35-9:10AM Session #1 Planned teaching-TJ Google Drive

Rm 22


Tier II

Rm 36


SmartBoard 101 Rm11 Wild
9:15-9:40AM Session # 2 Planned teaching-TJ SmartBoard Advanced-

Rm 3 Reller

Reading Mastery

Rm 2 Lampe

Math Small groups  Rm 24 Foley


Session # 3 Planned teaching-TJ Excel/Google Sheets-

Rm 3 Reller

Positive and Negative

consequences Rm 36


Time management-for independent reading/Data notebooks

Rm 27 Holliday

10:25-11:00AM Take aways & Ah-has! Everyone

During the sessions, notes were taken by various people.  I know that I encouraged people that can be quiet to take notes so I could see there thinking.

One of my favorite things, I heard was my principal share his go to for de-escalating a student using Boys Town:

3 Things that work me-

  • Empathy-I can see that you are upset
  • Coupling Statements-You are standing and you need to sit down.
  • Cool Down– I will give you a minute

When we re-entered the library after the mini-sessions, conversations continued and expanded.  Teachers were inspired by each other and were planning next steps.

We had some organized shout-outs about what was learned and kudos to facilitators.  We completed the surveys and left.

Here are some of the selected results from the survey:

What did you like about it?

  • like the shared notes that we can see. Also, if I have a question I can send it out to the school and everyone could be able to help me.
  • A lot of good ideas from co-workers!
  • I liked the choice. Good options. There never seems to be enough time to collaborate with peers. It was nice to have that.
  • I loved all the choices and that we were able to choose our classes according to our needs. I would LOVE to spend another PD like this.


What are your next steps:

  • I am going to review planned teaching.  I am going to make sure to review corrective teaching to ensure I am doing it correctly. I am going to implement new positive consequences for different groups and ensure that I am not using cost response because taking away has negative effects on some students.
  • Collecting more data on my Reading Mastery students and continuing to improve the way I use Boystown.
  • using Google docs more – uploading documents that I already have created and putting them in Google docs so I can easily access them from home

This experience reminded me of a conversation that I had with my principal. He said that sometimes we can hold a classroom hostage.  A teacher stands a lectures and does not release the knowledge to the student.  I think we often do this in PD.  We hold a group of teachers hostage and do not let them work with the knowledge.  EdCamp empowered our teachers to be in charge of their learning.  Our upcoming Wednesday PD will use a similar format and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Thanks to everyone who has done this before and shared their experiences.

Missteps and what do to next

After a great beginning of the week, Wednesday hit hard.  I got busy and I dropped the ball on something.  It resulted in my principal being blindsided by a very irate parent in his office.  I took my misstep hard, but my principal said the most profound thing: “Good leaders reflect on the missteps and do not take it personally.”  So here goes:

The things I will do better:

1. Communicate: I forgot to keep my principal informed of the parent conversations I had.  I didn’t put them all in the parent contact log.  I also did not verbally tell him about one particular contact when I saw him that day.  So I will now pause and summarize my meeting with a parent after I get off of the phone or have a conversation.

2. Delegate: No one will take away my S on my chest if I ask and request help.  I do not have to investigate everything.  I have a league of people willing and capable of helping me be the best at my job.  Just like my primary job is to make my principal look good, it is also lots of others jobs too.  This is hard skill is hard at home too.

The things I learned by watching my principal handle my misstep:

1. Give quality feedback to correct a mistake.  He calmly looked at me and said, “Let’s talk about this at our SAM meeting to discuss how to address the root cause of it.”  I came to the realization with effective questioning and clear description of the problem.  I own that mistake now and I will actively prevent that issue in future.

2. Agree and disagree.  I watched as he listened calmly and quietly to the parent.  He didn’t justify why what happened happened.  He let his silence do the heavy lifting.  At the same time, when the mom said something that was false, he respectfully disagreed.  The parent left happy that action would be taken.

Finally, I learned that my mistakes do not define me but how my responses to my mistakes do.  So the next day, I came back to school with a smile on my face determined that I will communicate and delegate effectively.

So today I had that opportunity.  I called for back-up.  My counselor took a student that was in crisis.  A para-educator investigated a low-level issue and summarized the findings to me.  I made sure that I documented everyone I talked to and verbally kept my principal aware of the larger issues.  I left school later than usual, but excited that I managed a busy day effectively.

Change, Growth and Grace

Since I moved my family back to the midwest, I have been blessed to spend more time with my family.  Sixteen years ago, I left my parents’ house in Omaha for the big city of Houston.  Luckily, I grew and changed over those years and so did my parents and siblings.  We did see each other yearly, but not as regularly as we do now.  One thing I noticed at this year’s Christmas gathering is that I am not forced to be the person I was in this picture.


My brother, sister and I just before I moved to Houston.

My parents and siblings allow me to grow and change.  For this I am very blessed. My family’s reaction to me made wonder about how educator view growth and change in others.

I think that it is easy to pigeon-hole students, teachers and parents into a role.  If we hold tight to that view, we do not allow that person to grow or change.

I think of one of my students who has a reputation about being a difficult student.  A behavior intervention plan was put in place so this student could be successful.  This plan worked for this child.   At times, it can be challenging for this student because teachers and students still see him as “the bad kid.”  Luckily, his teachers have seen him grow and are proud of his change.  His success happened because his teacher believed that he was capable of change.

As an educator we need to believe that all students are capable of change and who they were last year, last month, or last week does not have to define them.

We also need to give each other that grace to grow.  If define teachers based on their first year of few years of teaching, then we are limiting them.  I am glad that I am not defined by my first few teaching years .  I know that I was a difficult mentee and I can remember in my second year of teaching that I was upset that I was not nominated for Teacher of the Year.  I am glad that those teachers never gave up on me.  They continued to treat with respect because they knew I would change.  Luckily, I did.

As I continue my journey of growth and change, I will expect my peers to grow and change.  I will expect my students will grow and change.  I will embrace who they are now and who they will become over time.  Change is an exciting thing!

10 things I learned this semester

As my first semester as a School Administrative Manager (SAM) ends,  I’m taking the time to reflect what I learned this semester.  I come home every day exhausted and invigorated with this job.  In no particular order, 10 things I learned:

10. Being the first one and last one at school does not make me more effective. It makes me tired and actually ineffective.  I have found that it is better for me to be there early.  So much happens in the half hour before school starts.  Parents need questions answered and teachers need coverage.  Because of this, I have a morning routine that involves reviewing the day’s agenda, visiting twitter, and writing a positive note.

9. Use please and thank you.  I find that I have to ask teachers, students and parents to do things that are out of their comfort zone.  The majority say yes.  I believe that they do that because it is a request.

8. Smile.  It goes a long way.  Life is hard and everyone deserves a little kindness.  I may not be able to solve a teacher’s challenge or change what a child goes home to.  But I can greet each person I meet with a smile. Besides, I do not have the prettiest resting face.

7. Document everything. My job requires me to take on many duties that a principal would perform.  My principal is still the leader of my school and he is the one who is called to the table when a decision is made.  There is not enough time in the day for me to detail all the decisions I made.  So I have a parent contact log on Google drive to document what was said and the type of contact it was.  This allows my principal to respond to a parent that may accuse the school of not contacting them.

6. Respect and value people’s ideas.  I work with this brilliant teacher, but she doesn’t realize that at that particular second I do not have time to listen to her great idea.  I found myself not thinking about what is she asking for. Instead, I was thinking about all of the other things that needed my attention. So out of respect, I now say, “I want to give what you have to say the time it deserves, so would you e-mail it to me so I can reflect and think about it?” When I do this, I find that I give her ideas the proper consideration.

5. Pack a portable lunch.  The first week of school, I packed my lunches as if I were an instructional coach.  I like to think of myself as a great cook so I had lunches that had to be heated up and which required utensils.  I also found that those lunches were never eaten because I had lunch duties, student discipline, and other reasons why I was not at my desk.  So now my go-to lunch involves a peanut butter sandwich and a piece of fruit.  These can be eaten anywhere.

4. Read something inspiring everyday.  I am not going to lie. I work at a high poverty school and it is hard.  It would be easy to be discouraged because there is so much need and I am only one.  In order to combat that, I read many different blogs that keep me inspired.  Here are some of my favorites blogs:

3. Find your Justice League.  At my school, a group meets weekly to discuss students we are worried about.  This group’s members include the principal, the counselor, the play therapist, the behavior interventionist and myself.  We discuss how to help our students become successful at school and in life.  So when a challenge occurs, we easily work together to help the student.  We also provide each other the support to continue on this journey.

2. Listen. I spend most of my day listening.  I listen to parents and teachers.  I listen to students explain what happened.  I listen to my principal.  I find that I am more successful when I listen to understand and not to respond.  Every person deserves the respect to be heard.  My missteps happened when I did not hear the other person.  As my principal says, let your silence do your heavy lifting.

1. Reflect on these questions at the end of each.

  • How did I help my school with its goal?
  • How did I help my principal be the instructional leader he wants to be?
  • Am I closer to achieving my goals because of today?

Using these questions as my guide, I often find that my day is more successful than it may seem on the outside.  I also use these questions to focus my day as well.

I am sure as I continue on this journey I will continue to learn and grow.