Picking up where I left off…

One might notice by looking at my archives that I took a significant break from blogging. My last post was many months ago…in a different school year, in a very different time in my life and my career. So many things have changed over the past 9 months: new responsibilities, new supervisor, new strategic plan, new way of conducting business, new terminology, new learning, and new relationships.


With all of that said, what I have recognized the most over the past few months is how little I was paying attention to my own leadership–I was so worried about helping others I failed to grow myself. Through looking inward, I began to notice some things I was doing that were not the most productive behaviors. Here are a few pieces I have learned about myself:

1. I am good at feedback. Really good…like too good…and quick on the trigger…and sometimes too blunt. I’m the one who has the propensity to pick out exactly what needs to be “fixed” when a problem arises. The problem with all of this is that I have a tendency to forget to recognize the accomplishments made, the product created, the process developed, etc., and instead go into “feedback mode”. Yikes. You have to have thick skin to deal with me on some days.

2. I am good at keeping to myself. I have always scored as an introvert on those personality tests you take as a young adult, but what I didn’t notice was that my own commitment to “working hard” had manifested itself on many occasions into working as a hermit. I’m not sure how someone who loved to play team sports so much as a kid turned into someone who prefers going solo, but it happened.


Flip Flippen has said, “No organization can rise above the constraints of its leadership.” What I have recognized through my learning over the past several months is that I have to work on overcoming my constraints in order not to weigh down my organization. My big realization: I need to be cognizant of my own constraints and work on them in order to grow in my own leadership. Although I continue to mess up, I am at least aware of my tendencies and also am thankful I have others who hold me accountable for staying on track.

So why share this now? I think it is time for me to pick back up and be the reflective educator that drove me to this blog in the first place. I believe reflection is a huge part of what I do–it is who I am and how I learn. I also understand that in order to lead, a person must be willing to be vulnerable. I ran across this quote recently, and it was the final thing that pushed me back to this blog:

“Life is short. There is no time to leave important words unsaid.”

The curve in the middle of the path…” by Nina Matthews on Flickr
“reflections (B)” by Camil Tulcan on Flickr

Listen to one another



To say that I am living among a time of change is an understatement.

I am about 2 months away from saying goodbye to many of my colleagues. My Superintendent and Associate Superintendent have announced their retirements and are moving on to new endeavors. In addition, I have several colleagues moving onto new positions in other districts. This is by far the biggest transition I have experienced as an educator in all of my years of service.

Because of this time of transition, it is common to feel uneasy, anxious, and unsure about what the future holds. I can’t lie…I’m feeling all of those things. January was probably one of the most emotion-filled months I’ve had as a professional, and those who know me well know that I don’t particularly care for emotion and drama. I have learned, though, that sometimes you cannot avoid it. Alex Tan has been quoted as saying, “Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again.” If that is the case, I should see things very clearly for quite a while.

Everyone handles change differently. Some will fight it with great force. The extreme opposite reaction is to roll with the punches. Throughout all of this time of uncertainty, I have chosen not to say much. I haven’t been blogging. I haven’t been on social media very frequently. I have conducted business as usual and worked to avoid as much turmoil as I could.

…but I have never stopped listening.

“A culture is made–or destroyed–by its articulate voices.” –Ayn Rand

I am hoping that others will join me in taking time to listen to one another. It isn’t very difficult to voice an opinion. It is, however, tough to pause and listen to the opinions of others.

Who are the articulate voices in your culture? Are they establishing a positive culture or breaking it down?



Change–It’s A New Year by Nanagyei on Flickr

Learning to let things go

I was reminded last week how quickly life can turn on a dime. As I was participating in a professional development session, I received a text message from my sister that her 12-hour-old newborn son was being transported to a children’s hospital because of some big health concerns. Being hours away from my sister and her family and feeling helpless, I was immediately distracted.

I was shocked.

I was hurt.

I was sad.

I was scared.

I was filled with numerous emotions all at the same time, and I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do next. Luckily, I was with a group of colleagues who helped me work through the shock of the news, and I knew after not to many minutes what I needed to do. I had to drop everything and go. A few quick phone calls to my sister and my ever-supportive husband took place, and I was on my way to help.

In processing all of this information, I made a bunch of split second decisions in a very short amount of time. One of those uncharacteristic decisions I made was to leave my family for an undetermined amount of time. I had no idea what I was going to encounter when I arrived to the hospital. I had no idea how long I was going to be gone. I cannot tell you how lucky I am to have such a loving and supportive husband to knew where I needed to be. They didn’t skip a beat at home while I was away, and deep down I knew they would be just fine.

Another uncharacteristic decision I made was to leave work. I just left. I never do that. It might be shameful to admit, but I rarely ever let go of work. I don’t ever want to let people down, nor do I want to disappoint or frustrate anyone with non-action. I knew by leaving that I was going to get behind in my work, and that drove me nuts as I thought about it on my long drive to see my sister. I thought about the professional development and learning I was missing. I thought about the meetings that were taking place without me. I thought about the emails that I was not answering, the phone messages I couldn’t return, and the people I was neglecting.

Then I arrived and saw this:

Suddenly, everything was re-prioritized and none of my worries mattered as much as taking care of my sister, brother-in-law, and that little boy. I needed to step in and help them cope with the news they were getting, ask questions of doctors they couldn’t think to ask, communicate with other friends and family not present, and simply keep my sister company while she sat and waited for test result after test result.

I think in all of the madness I learned an important lesson over the course of the last week: it’s okay to let go of things and shift priorities. Nothing is more important than your family or maintaining friendships with your close friends. In doing this, I had to realize that it’s okay to go without answering those pesky emails for a few hours or to miss a few meetings. I do not wish the last week’s worth of emotion on anyone, but I am thankful that this was put in front of me in a way that has caused me to pause and think about making some shifts. I have to come to terms with how I can be a good leader, and yet not be overcome with work.

…oh yes, and that sweet little boy…they are still working to find answers, but they found enough that he finally went home today. Life is good. 🙂

Both images were shared by my sis. He’s a cutie, isn’t he?


Staying true to my beliefs

I spent the day learning from Diane Sweeney alongside our very smart group of instructional coaches. Near the end of our session, she challenged everyone to develop 5 belief statements about coaching and then find some way to make these transparent. We could share through a letter to our colleagues, we could share verbally with our administrative teams, or we could keep them as a guide for ourselves to stay on track throughout the year. I have been asked to develop belief statements on different occasions, usually through graduate work, and I have to admit…unless I need it for a resume, I have just turned the page after writing them and moved on.

I think this year I will do something different.

I try very hard not to be one of those leaders who tunes out when I am supervising PD sessions. Actually, just saying “supervising PD sessions” makes me cringe. I prefer to participate in the learning if I can so that I can learn along with my colleagues. Sometimes life happens (or a crisis occurs) and I cannot stay engaged like I want. I am always working on getting better at tuning out distractions (darn that smart phone). And yes, sometimes I’m downright non-compliant and choose to not participate (I’m not proud of that–it’s just reality).  Therefore, when Diane asked us to write these belief statements, I started reexamining my own beliefs on coaching…which then led me to the realization that a leader is very much a coach. My belief statements about coaching are actually my beliefs as a leader.

When Diane said we needed to find a way to make these beliefs transparent, I decided to start a new blog post and put them out for all to read. It terrifies me to say the least to put these out for anyone to judge, but I guess I would ask that you not judge my beliefs, but yet use them as inspiration to start examining your own. Here goes:

1. Our conversations in schools (and in our offices) should revolve around doing what is in the best interest of our students. This often means removing self from the equation when making a tough choice, but if the focus is on kids when making a decision, I will at least be doing something right.

2. You live and die by the relationships you have with your colleagues. I have to admit that I struggle with this one on occasion. I love the people I work with, but sometimes I let work get in the way of simple relationship-building time. (For example, I don’t eat lunch with my colleagues very often because I am working. I would rather get things done at work so I don’t have to take it home.) Our office lost a great secretary last year when she passed away suddenly. She was always getting on our cases to take lunch for ourselves and not talk about work and to not work while we were eating. I think this year I will try to heed to her advice a little bit more.

3. Sometimes it is okay to leave work on your desk and go home. It will be there tomorrow. Family time is sacred and we don’t have enough of it–take advantage of the precious minutes you have when you can get it.

4. You gain credibility when you practice what you preach. Building and District leaders don’t typically have classrooms full of students to teach. However, they do have faculty professional development sessions to lead. It is important to use this time to model what you expect from your teachers in the classroom.

5. Communication. Communication. Communication. So much of the conflict that I encounter in various situations starts with a miscommunication. Communicating efficiently and effectively isn’t an easy task to accomplish, especially the larger the system you lead. However, I have learned the hard way that if I am proactive with my communication instead of reactive, my stress level is much smaller. I referenced this phenomena in another blog post as playing offense rather than defense.

So now what? I guess now that these are published for all to see, perhaps I’ll be held accountable a bit more to stay true to my beliefs. It is not easy to stay focused when your day could go completely haywire on a whim. However, I am excited for the year ahead and look forward to continued learning with my colleagues.

turn page by andy.brandon50 on Flickr
Leadership Style-Participative by Donald Clark on Flickr


Let the Memories Begin

My family and I recently returned from an adventure at Disney World in Orlando, FL. I call it an adventure because it wasn’t exactly what I would call a relaxing vacation. Instead, it was a busy 6 days of running around as a group of 10, with 4 of the 10 being children under the age of 8. Yes, this was a Clark Griswold-like dream of my father to take his girls and their families to the mecca for family adventures. There is a sign at every entrance to a Disney Park that says, “Let the memories begin.” I can assure you that we made a host of memories during our adventure.

It didn’t hit me until about the 2nd or 3rd day that the Disney employees (called “cast members”) are so incredibly courteous. The first morning we were at breakfast, one of the servers presented my 8 year old daughter with her very own crown. She wore that thing all week to every place we traveled. She was called “Princess” more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. Every time that was said to her, I watched that little girl’s face light up and her confidence increase.

When my son broke his swimming goggles on the waterslide and came down with blood coming off the bridge of his nose and tears down his face, a cast member immediately took care of him…right down to giving him a new pair of goggles. There really are no worries when you are in this environment. Their mission is to take care of you.

Disney is in the midst of major renovations in Fantastyland at the Magic Kingdom. Some companies put up signs that say, “Please disregard our mess while we are under construction.” That’s not the Disney way. They have signs, but they speak more about the culture of the organization rather than about what they are doing. This one caught my eye and inspired me to write this post:

My question is this: what if as leaders we made sure our kids were in another world while at school? What if this world allowed them to reach out and collaborate with others in the larger global society, not just the ones who are sitting next to them in a classroom? What if we allowed some to escape the fears they have about when they get their next meal or if a parent is going to come home that night? What if we were the positive role models our students are grasping for? What if we provided learning experiences for our students that they can’t even fathom?

Perhaps then we could put signs outside our schools that say, “Let the memories begin.”

Main Street Blur by Express Monorail on Flickr
Laughing at Alice and the Rabbit from Me
Walt Disney Quote from Mike Dial