Tag Archives: Tony Sinanis

“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”:

My letter to families in the wake of tragedy

Below is the letter I shared with my school families this evening. Thank you to Joe Mazza, Bill Powers, Tony Sinanis, Dr. Spike Cook, Patrick Larkin and the countless others in my PLN who shared resources and ideas as we prepare to both lead our schools and send our own children to school. Best wishes for a Monday that focuses on the goodness of your school’s children, the dedication of your staff and support from your greater school community.

Dear East View Families,
Like you, I am spending part of my Sunday evening preparing to send my children to school tomorrow with my heart heavy from Friday’s events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. While the district will issue a formal statement regarding this horrific tragedy, I wanted to connect with you as your child’s principal and as a parent before you send your much loved children our way to reinforce the following:
  • Thank you for trusting us with your children every day. Know that keeping your children safe is the single most important piece of our work at school and that your children are diligently cared for by our school staff.
  • The main office will continue to be the only point of entrance to school during the day, and we will continue the sign-in process for visitors.
  • I have instructed all staff to refrain from discussing Friday’s tragedy with students or with one another in the presence of students. We respect your role as a kindergarten parent on what you feel is appropriate to share with your child. If it is brought up by a student, the teacher will take that student aside to talk or involve me, Mrs. Schafermeyer, Mrs. Noll (our social worker), or another member of our team to ensure his or her needs are addressed. If your child needs to speak with someone outside of the classroom, you will be notified in the interest of working together. If you know your child is having a tough time, please feel free to contact his or her teacher, the office staff, or Mrs. Noll so we can support him or her.
  • Know that we conduct drills in partnership with local first responders to aid in our preparation for weather related or other events that may compromise the safety of our school community. Through those drills and ongoing conversation, we continue to revisit our plans and policies. Likewise, teachers and substitute teachers all have copies of our emergency procedures and know their role within those plans.
  • Mrs. Noll will be at our Home & School Organization meeting on Tuesday, December 18th at 7 p.m. to highlight how to talk to your children about this situation and answer any questions you might have from a social-emotional perspective.  You may also access the following resources to assist you : http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf  (http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence_spanish.pdf ).
Please don’t hesitate to contact any member of the East View team if we can support you or your children or if you have questions or feedback.
Respectfully,
Kathy Melton