Category Archives: Leading with Integrity & Professionalism

Confessions of a rebounding blogger

img_9726Looking back through my posts, one topic that emerges the most is my lack of blogging. Candidly, this is in direct opposition to my firm believe that educational leaders must take risks and model what we hope to see in others. It makes my cries that everyone has something to share and our voices are valuable seem just a bit hypocritical, don’t you think? As George Couros noted in Blogging is your job, “If you see reflection as crucial to what you do, don’t find time; schedule time.” So here I am with my mocha, an R & B playlist and a pile of work I can tend to later.

Over the past couple years, I’ve gotten to know Jennifer Kloczko through our #LeadWild Voxer group. This summer we finally had the opportunity to meet in person, and I’m more than excited for some upcoming projects we’ll tackle together. Aside from being school leaders, we shamelessly share a love of Justin Timberlake. Can you blame us? This weekend, Jennifer shared more musical goodness through her post Leadership Lessons #maroon5. Before getting to those lessons, she, too references George’s post about blogging. Jennifer writes, “You see, I write blog posts in my head all the time. When I’m walking, and driving– inspiration is everywhere. And once in awhile a post makes it out of my head and onto the page.” I can totally relate to blogging in my head, but blogging in my head doesn’t help anyone but me. To be honest, it doesn’t even help ME as much as getting my words on a page. As I updated other parts of my blog tonight, I couldn’t help but reread old posts…old posts with words I barely remember writing but very much needed to read.

This is the part where I’d typically make a grand statement about being back on the blog train for good. Instead, I’m going to hit Publish (before I overthink this) and put that next writing time on my calendar! What are you doing to protect your reflection and sharing time?

The obvious & the amazing: 3 workflow strategies in action

I’m consistently trying to find ways to simplify my workflow as an elementary principal so I can spend more time with students and staff. In going through the day, I was reminded of a favorite Derek Sivers video clip that presents a compelling reminder to share what we do, even if it is a seemingly simple workflow strategy…or three…that are helping me this year.

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Computer Post-It: While I am a big fan of digital resources, I sometimes need an ‘in plain sight’ reminder of next steps or critical tasks. I use my calendar, Google apps and Voxer voice notes digitally, but I always keep a Post-It on my MacBook with simple bullets of things I must do. I keep that list short and focused.

Desk reminder: Each week I prepare an internal staff communication, The Friday Flight, and publish a joint publication of our school and Parent Teacher Association news, The Lowell Memo. In addition to labeling items for inclusion in my email and using one week’s publication as a base for the next, I keep a hard copy note on my desk as topics frequently come up during calls or when I’m checking email before or after school. I’ve also added a space for cards as a reminder to praise, thank or encourage others during the week. And, of course, there’s an ‘other’ category to use as needed! Part of my end-of-week routine is to remove my old list and add a new one to start Monday fresh.

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2016-17 files: This week I spent some time ensuring our staff Google site was updated with important information for my staff. Thanks to the fabulous power of Google Docs, I took 5 minutes to open essential documents like our master schedule, lunch/recess supervision schedules and supply ordering, and make a copy of each and rename the files for 2016-17. In sharing these with my office staff now, we have a shared accountability and an efficient way to plan and reduce unnecessary oversights that would negatively impact others.

 

 

IMG_3254I’ve been away from my blog for a long time, which will result in a different, more ‘challenging to write’ post along the way. Thanks to the power of my #leadwild and #principalsinaction networks and the goal I set for myself in my own family’s goal setting talk, I’m committing to writing more about both the ‘obvious’ that comes from sharing an idea or strategy that is part of my practice and the ‘amazing’ that comes with deep reflection and dialogue with others.

What workflow strategies have helped you the most? What is ‘obvious to you, but amazing to others’?

“Here” is more than a physical space (#NAESP14 Day 3)

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This post was originally published on Ed Web, NAESP’s Principals’ Office Blog, and on the Conference News site for #NAESP14 where I served as an official conference blogger.

As I moved through Day 3 of the #NAESP14 conference and traveled back to Illinois, I knew this was going to take more than one post to wrap up; here’s the first one! Throughout the conference, we saw the tagline “It only happens here” on signage and programs, stressing the value of time together. Friday night, a few of us ventured into downtown Nashville via the hotel shuttle. Our driver was Al, and it was evident that he was proud of his work, enjoyed himself, and valued a good sense of humor. On Saturday, I walked out to the airport shuttle to discover that Al and I would be spending that ride together, too. I couldn’t help but think of this post by Jimmy Casas as I chatted with Al. As we waited for other passengers, Al asked about my visit and showed me a few video clips and photos of things I hadn’t had the opportunity to see and told stories of the resort expansion over time. When it was time for the shuttle to depart (Al is very punctual; we almost learned that the hard way coming back on Friday!), I was the only passenger. We tuned in the the Grand Ole Opry and chatted about that for the short ride.

Moving next through the airport, I was rather surprised at the quiet. (I’m starting to learn that all airports seem a bit quiet when you’re from Chicago.) I walked right up to security where a friendly man checked my ID and my boarding pass, and he asked how my visit had been. When he found out I was a school principal, he laughed about his own school experience and said he’d taken some swats back in the old days of school. I laughed with him and reminded him that some things had changed. He looked at me as he returned my ID and said, “Kathleen, be unstoppable.” I couldn’t help but walk away with a smile, feeling empowered from that brief, simple interaction. I asked the ladies who scanned the bags what his name was, as I realized I’d walked away without asking. They laughed and said, “Oh, that’s Charles.” I assured them I didn’t have a complaint, and they said, “Oh, we know. If you share a good experience and just write Charles, and they’ll know who you mean.” I thought about how many people he likely had the chance to impact a day (both passengers and co-workers) in a positive way such as this. As I continued through the airport, I heard them page the “passenger who lost his Star Wars Journal” back to security to get it. How great for that child! (And how great for his or her parents to have a treasure recovered before their flight.)

Eventually I got to the gate (after a sandwich stop where I ran into an old high school friend!), knowing my flight was delayed. A small group of women came over to sit, while complaining about service they’d received. Shortly before boarding, another couple entered the area complaining about their restaurant service. Another couple empathized with them, and the complaining continued. I thought about the contrast of those last few minutes compared to my trip from the hotel and through the airport. I thought about the contrast of those minutes from the last 3 days with the Social Media Ambassador team.

I boarded my plane with these thoughts about how “here” is more than a physical space…”here” is where we can have valuable, meaningful face-to-face interactions with members of our PLN (Personal Learning Network) and brand new faces alike. But “here” is also a metaphorical sweet spot…a zone…where positivity breeds and we lift each other up. Some lessons are indeed learned “here,” but they can and must be practiced everywhere. They reach into our own communities and through our social media streams, too.

  • Positivity is exponential: From Al’s passengers, to Charles’s TSA team, to the amazing leaders I worked alongside in the Social Media Lounge, we can choose to model positivity.  On the flipside, being negative can also spread. Choose to be positive.
  • Connectivity elevates all of us: The spirit of sharing elevates us. Giving others credit for their hard work and great ideas…that elevates us, too. Bringing the best and brightest to your students, pitching in, and working hard makes us better. Not in a “more for me” kind of way, but in a “Hey, I sure wish I could be more like him or her. I want to give back and I have certainly gained.”

  • Take time to notice: Notice names, listen to stories, and acknowledge others. Personally, I wonder if would have noticed what I did if I wasn’t traveling home alone. I need to be especially careful of not overlooking others when I’m with people I already know.

  • Return the Star Wars Journal: Sometimes there are small steps we can take that range from inconsequential to inconvenient. For someone else, our choices in those moments mean more. Take the extra minute to do the right thing and to make someone else’s day.

#NAESP14 Socail Media Ambassadors; Photo by @Joe_Mazza

#NAESP14 Social Media Ambassadors; Photo by @Joe_Mazza

Read other great thoughts on connectivity and the value of the PLN from the Social Media crew (check out our sessions & notes here) as you think about your own brand of “here”:

Maximizing my own Summer learning: An #ILEdchat reflection

This week, the #ILEdchat team chatted about maximizing summer learning. (New to #ILEdchat? You can read more about how that started and what we do here.) As our team formed questions for the chat, my own hopes and plans for summer were heavy on my mind. I knew the time would pass all too quickly, and I didn’t want to head back to school with the same To Do list I had in June and a pile of regrets as to how I’d used my time. I knew that being intentional with my time could lead to great progress. Family time, my dissertation, my best friend’s wedding (the real deal…not the movie!), #NAESP14, teaching an online course, many much neglected home projects, preparing for the school year ahead, and improving my fitness were and still are all part of my summer master plan. As the chat unfolded, it was indeed encouraging to hear how others were approaching their summer plans, too. You can read the chat archive here for ideas on summer planning and some great reading suggestions from teachers and administrators across and beyond Illinois. I left our hour-long chat and have moved through the week considering the following ideas that certainly pertain to summer learning and progress but have relevance beyond:

  • Continue to share the terrific and the tough: There is power in sharing our hopes and plans with one another and taking on a role of encourager instead of solely needing to be encouraged. Admittedly, the latter is more how I felt in preparing for our chat. I am fortunate to benefit from a great support system, both virtually and face-to-face. As I work on my dissertation, I have a great accountability partner in my friend and former colleague, Brent. We share what we do accomplish, and he isn’t afraid to tell me when I need to get my act together and keep moving. I also have a PLN with people like Nicholas Provenzano, who I’ve only seen once face-to-face a couple years back at the ISTE Leadership Forum. We’ve never even had a conversation, but the post he shared about his own deep, personal struggles and the responses he received on his blog and Twitter are incredible examples of mutual support in which he was both supported and his willingness to share lifted others who share such struggles. 
  • Be intentional & disciplined: This morning, Daniel Pink shared a post by Shane Parrish , An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day and Finding Focus. In exercise and time management, there are no shortage of plans to follow that promise great results, but there are often ideas to glean within them. I appreciate that this reinforces the importance of starting a day with a plan and ending it with reflection. The idea to set alarms to monitor progress throughout the day is worthwhile, especially in the summer when I have a bit more control over my schedule than during school days. During the year, I set my phone alarm for our morning half-day kindergarten dismissal, our afternoon half-day arrival, and for 5 minutes before school dismissed so that I was reminded to be part of those times. I think that could be a helpful strategy in monitoring my time in the summer, too. I know what I need to do, and I have to be disciplined in following through and intentional in planning and adjusting. 
  • Allow yourself to have fun! Looking back up at my summer list, there sure is a lot of opportunity for fun amidst the tasks! Recently a friend shared this article on Facebook about too much hurrying and what that can do to us and to our children. I can visualize the mom dragging her child along with reminders to hurry; I have been that Mom, that wife, that principal… Being intentional and disciplined means building in that time to not hurry, too,

A simple summer to do list quickly moved me to deeper reflection about how I really want to be all of the time, and it left me feeling encouraged and challenged. Seems summer learning is actually about much more than summer learning and task completion. To take thoughts to action, I will use my calendar to schedule my time and alarms during work time to stop and reflect. I will use running time to reflect, too.

In the chat we asked participants to finish this sentence they likely uttered in the Spring: “I can’t wait for summer so I have time to…”  Think about how you might finish this sentence in the Fall: “This summer was awesome because…”

I can do this

In the Fall of 2010, I enrolled in a doctoral program in Educational Administration at Northern Illinois University. Today, I spent this afternoon in  DeKalb to observe a dissertation defense for a candidate with the same committee chair and a quantitative study. While I’m likely a year+ from that step myself, I needed to see someone successfully navigate that process. I needed to remind myself that I can do this. Now here I am writing ABOUT my dissertation, when I probably should be writing my dissertation itself. All in the name of reflection, right?

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a bit about my decisions, the challenges, and the benefits here. Since then, I completed my final two courses, passed my comprehensive exams, and started my dissertation work. The exams were pretty stressful, and I was glad to put them in the rear-view mirror on my first attempt. And while I was pleased to reach the milestone of completing my coursework, I found myself having some mixed feelings. As a mom and a principal, I feel the weight of my responsibility to those I serve at home and at school. Often that is a  positive, but it certainly isn’t without challenge. For that time on Saturday, though, I selfishly felt responsible only for myself and found myself in the company of others at a similar stage in life trying to balance the same things I tried to balance. It was a comfortable place to be, and I miss that part of the experience.

Since then, I’ve changed school districts and started my dissertation. I was fortunate to find a chair and a methodologist so I could begin fine-tuning my study. Some members of my cohort still check in from time to time; one friend, Brent Anderson, and I check in more regularly and made the trek today to see that defense, talk about our experience and progress, and enjoy the local nachos. At some point in today’s conversation, and in most that we have on this topic, I find myself saying, “We can totally do this.” Watching a candidate present and respond from questions to her committee was really helpful and encouraging. As we were there to observe, the chair and committee members explained some parts of the process to add to our learning. In that moment, I feel okay. In the moments where I’m focused on my next step, I feel okay. When I think about all that happens between my next step and that last step, I feel a little less than okay. I’m guessing that’s a normal part of the process, although I assure you it isn’t my favorite part.

salonwritingMy plan?

Keep focusing on that next step with the knowledge that I’ll reach my end goal. Continue those support and accountability conversations with my friends and colleagues who are working through the process as well. Be disciplined as I work toward my own graduation target of May 2015. And keep taking photos of the random places I work on my dissertation, giving credit to Brent who started this. I’m sure it’ll make for a lovely collection someday!