Keeping Air in the Tires

Update for May 31-June 3

This Memorial Day Weekend, my daughters and I spent some time together at the new “Hilliard’s Station Park“, which has a great fountain feature that the kids loved playing in.

Memorial Day was picture perfect for the first unofficial day of summer: 83˚F, mostly sunny, blue skies.



We biked it down the bike trail from our house and after some fun and a picnic lunch, it was time to head back.

As we got onto the trail, my youngest, affectionately referred to as “the complainer”, started sharing how her legs were tired.

My natural reaction was to share some of the hundreds of “words of encouragement” floating around in my head.  After some deliberation in my mind, I went with the positive words.

“You’re defeating yourself by saying you can’t do it.  Try telling yourself you can do it.”

A little growth mindset goes a long way — At least it usually does.

“My legs are burning!  I can’t do it!” she exclaimed.  It was obvious she wasn’t experiencing the power of the mindset.

When we got to a stop I looked back at my daughter and noticed that the tires on her bike were almost completely flat.

#FatherhoodFail — I didn’t check the kids’ tires before setting out on a 2 mile bike ride.

“Well no wonder your legs hurt; your tires are almost flat.  It must feel like you’re riding through sand!”

Reflection — 

These last four days of school will most likely feel like you don’t have any air in your tires.  The speed of the week will be exhausting and the energy of kids + summer-like weather will no doubt have us peddling uphill.

So when you feel like you are biking through quicksand, take some time to put the air back in your tires — 
  • Go to bed early.
  • Take an early morning or late evening walk.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Watch something funny on TV (I recommend Modern Family, black-ish, or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).
  • Reflect on all of the GOOD that happened this school year – Better yet, have your students do this and share it out together.
  • Smile and know that you have made the difference in the lives of children!
Have a GREAT last week of school!

-Herb


Tweets Worth Reading


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Upcoming Dates — 

May 31 — 5th Grade vs. T’s Kickball game, 11am-noon
May 31 — ADE Luau, 6:30-8pm
June 1 — ADE READ-IN!
June 3 – – Last Day of 2015-16 School Year
June 6 — Staff Party
June 10 — Secs Last Day
June 13 — PTO Summer Planning Meeting, 6pm at ADE
June 14-17 — Creativity Institute (Herb & Sara F)
June 21 — Herb’s last day to report before summer break. 

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Staying Vulnerable & "Rising Strong" – Follow-up Post

Update for May 23-27



A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about being inspired by Brene’ Brown’s book Rising Strong to stay vulnerable in order to grow as a leader.

I set up times for my staff members to provide me with face-to-face feedback on these questions:

  • What should I start doing?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I continue doing?
  • Is my vision for learning evident?
  • Are my expectations clear and realistic?
  • Do I provide good feedback and positive reinforcement?
  • Can I be trusted?
  • How could I help you more?

While not everyone took me up on the opportunity to provide me with feedback, those who did helped me in a very meaningful way.

“Start doing”? Those answered ranged from “Watch how you react to situations; you seem to wear your heart on your sleeve” to “I can’t figure you out – You always seem to be wearing a poker face in situations”.

That was all good feedback, but I had to laugh at that!

“Stop doing” responses included “You don’t need to do a blog post every week”, “You sometimes are sending too many emails” and “I want to know what is going on, so “stop” not including us in some of the details.”

Another opportunity to chuckle.

There were slices of moments when the implicit message from staff members affirms things I am doing well and causes me to pause and reflect on the things I am not.

I have realized from this opportunity that I have to provide a range of leadership that attempts to meet the needs of my staff and parents.  

I need to differentiate my leadership – Be explicit with feedback and be more telling with some while planting seeds and leading from behind with others. The former pushes me to try and get better — It puts me outside of my comfort zone which means I will probably fail or fall short of expectations during this journey.

But I’m ready for that.

As Dr. Brown states in Rising Strong,

“I believe that vulnerability — the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome — is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy.”

I am committed to staying vulnerable and I challenge each of my staff to do the same.  

I challenge you to create a time when you can offer your students the chance to provide you with feedback on the experience you provided them with this year.  It will be affirming, uncomfortable, challenge and probably one of the best professional learning opportunities you will have this year.

I would love to know if you take this opportunity to get better and how it turned out!

In the meantime, have a GREAT week!

-Herb

Tweets Worth Checking Out —

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Upcoming Dates — 

May 23-Jun 3 — No PD dates (includes Assessment Days)

May 26 — Last Grow Together Thursday
May 30 — Holiday, NO SCHOOL
May 31 — ADE PTO Family Luau, 6-8PM — It’s a great time to relax and have fun with families! I ended up in a conga line last year and that’s saying something!

Jun 3 — Last Day of School (Students)
Jun 10 — Secretaries’ last day to report
Jun 24 — Herb’s last day to report

10 things I’ve learned as a principal after 100 blog posts.

Update for May 16-20

I started this blog two years ago as a way to reflect on my journey as an elementary principal.  And after 100 posts, I am confident that blogging has allowed me to reflect in public and has had a profound impact on me.

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned after 100 blog posts and I thought for this occasion I would share a list of the top 10 things I’ve learned from blogging and being a principal.  It’s a list of reflections, tips, and goals for the future and they are in not particular order.

1. Write for yourself — Who knows who will read your blog or who will even want to.  Therefore, write for yourself.  Create a blog and blog posts that you would want to read.  If others read it and like it, great!  If only you read it, then writing for yourself makes any post one of the best you have read. 

2. Steal ideas and steal them often — The format of my blog came directly from Ben Gilpin.  He’s a much better writer than me, but I liked the format of reflecting, sharing articles, and listing upcoming dates.  It has become a way for me to lead through words.  I share a reflection that hopefully causes my staff to reflect a little and bind us together on working towards a vision of making school better for kids.

3. Read, read, read — I used to tell my fourth grade students that my favorite part of the day was writer’s workshop.  I kept writer’s workshop at the end of the day because that gave us the whole day to read new stories, new information, and new ideas that we could use in our own writing.  Reading is the source of my ideas. I spend each early morning going through my feedly account, Twitter, and Facebook to find an article or post that pushes me to think or one that I think will connect to the work we are doing at school. Often what I read leads me to what I write about on Sunday evening.

4.  Get over yourself — Not everyone will like you or what you write. So stop trying to make everyone like you and stick to working on doing what is best for kids.

5.  Some people want to be told what to do, but don’t tell them what to do unless it’s really necessary — Sometimes you have to be explicit with expectations, but that is not always a card you need to play especially when in the middle of a change process.  Professional growth — the good kind — is usually in the form of arriving at the conclusion yourself.  Being told what to do feels completely different than being guided towards what to do and arriving there yourself.

6.  Kids are 1000 times easier to deal with than adults, but keeping kids first means making sure the adults who work the kids also see what is truly important. 

7.  Blogging is cathartic — Writing about something that connects all of your thoughts from the week helps you clear out what is unimportant and helps you prepare for the work ahead.  Some people journal, others drink or exercise.  I blog (well, mostly I blog).

8.  You’re on a team, but you are all alone — At times, being a principal can make you feel extremely lonely.  There are times when you can’t share what’s going on because you really don’t want others to carry the weight of the situation or problem.  A principal’s job includes protecting others from the garbage that gets thrown at us from time to time.  And that can make you feel really lonely.

9.  Eating lunch with students is worth the all of the spills in your office — I eat lunch with about 30 kids in my office each week.  It is as messy as it sounds. It is also incredibly inconvenient sometimes when 5 first graders show up unexpectedly with lunch in hand.  But it’s easy to let go of what’s frustrating you at that moment when all 5 of them are smiling and laughing.  Taking the time to connect with kids should be a first priority.

10.  I have the best job in the world — One day last October, I was breaking down cardboard boxes with my art teacher after school for our Cardboard Challenge that was going to take place that weekend. 

We needed a ton of cardboard to help our giant maker faire a huge success.  I was tired, I had a headache, my dress clothes were getting dirty, and I had just found out I needed to call a tough parent because their kid saw porn on a school device that another student had somehow managed to look up on Google.

A little later while we were still prepping the cardboard, I turned to Becky (my art teacher) and said, “I don’t think I ever want to leave this role.  I love that I get to do this!”  I truly have the best job in the world because I commit to focusing each second of the time I spend thinking about or working on school related stuff on doing what is best for kids.

The principalship has been the most rewarding work I have ever done outside of teaching.  I’ve never had a doubt about taking on this opportunity.  Each day truly is a new adventure.

Thanks for reading!  Here’s to another 100 posts!

Have a GREAT week!

-Herb


Tweets worth checking out —

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Upcoming dates —

May 17 — K/1 Data Team Half-Day Meeting
May 18 — 2/3 Data Team Half-Day Meeting
May 19 — 5/4 Data Team Half-Day Meeting 

May 18 — ADDC Staff Meeting, ADE Media Center, 3:45
May 19 — Herb Mtg AM
May 20 — School Community Meeting, 2:40pm — PM KG to end meeting by duck-taping me to the wall of the gym.  You’ve been warned…
May 26 — Last Grow Together Thursday
May 30 — Holiday, NO SCHOOL
May 31 — ADE PTO Family Luau

Jun 3 — Last Day of School (Students)

Staying Vulnerable In Order to Grow

Update for May 9-13



Last week, we focused on “Building Skill” – Intentional, focused repetitions on a skill we know we need to improve to move from Good to Exceptional.

We talked again about how talent alone doesn’t get the job done.  I mentioned this ad from Nike that I think underscores this point:


We also discussed the need to not only share your goal for improvement with others, but also ask them to hold you accountable.  Jim Rohn wrote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Surrounding ourselves with others we trust, whose approaches to life and work we wish to emulate, can help us build the skill we need to move from good to elite.

However, this comes at a price to our ego.  In order to build skill, we need to stay vulnerable.

I am constantly working to improve as a leader.  The topic and concept of leadership is a passion of mine so I find myself reading, thinking, reflecting, and sharing anything on leadership.  It truly fascinates me.

And because leadership is a skill I am constantly building, I need to continue to make myself vulnerable in order to grow.

I have done two “feedback” surveys with the staff and it has helped, to a point.  Anonymous surveys are a mixed bag.  Most people use the anonymity to be honest in answering the questions I asked on the survey.  

One or two folks used anonymity as an opportunity to be less-than-professional with their feedback.  The truth is, it’s feedback I can’t really use — It just puts a giant pit in my stomach and keeps me from sleeping (Maybe that was what they really wanted to happen).  If you want to give someone feedback that will help them improve, you need to be specific.

In order to stay vulnerable and in order to get more out of your feedback, I hope that each of you will take me up on the offer to provide me with face-to-face feedback.  I was inspired by Thomas Hoerr’s article in this month’s Educational Leadership that discussed this type of feedback format.

I am ready to have some of my assumptions about the ways things are going affirmed from our conversation.  I am also ready to face the music when the feedback hurts — That’s the feedback I need to listen to in order to get better.

Here are some questions I am considering (Again, inspired by Thomas Hoerr):

  • What should I start doing?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I continue doing?
  • Is my vision for learning evident?
  • Are my expectations clear and realistic?
  • Do I provide good feedback and positive reinforcement?
  • Can I be trusted?
  • How could I help you more?

I hope you will take 10 minutes out of your schedule to chat with me and help me grow!  A link to a sign-up will be coming soon.

Have a GREAT week!

-Herb

Tweets Worth Checking Out —


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Upcoming Dates — 

May 10 — Team Connection Time; let me know if you want to touch base.
May 11 — Spec Ed Team meeting, 12PM; RTI Team Meeting, 3:30PM
May 14 — AD/DC Warrior Dash, 6PM
May 17 — K/1 Data Team Half-Day Meeting
May 18 — 2/3 Data Team Half-Day Meeting
May 19 — 5/4 Data Team Half-Day Meeting 
May 18 — ADDC Staff Meeting, ADE Media Center, 3:45
May 19 — Herb Mtg AM
May 26 — Last Grow Together Thursday
May 30 — Holiday, NO SCHOOL
May 31 — ADE PTO Family Luau

Jun 3 — Last Day of School (Students)

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Frustration: One of Life’s "Gifts"

Update for May 2-6

We all get the opportunity to experience “one of those weeks” — The kind where there seems to be limit to the things that frustrate you, aggravate you, and cause your head to hurt endlessly.

Last week was my opportunity.

I found myself saying “serenity now” a lot.

What happened wasn’t anything that I haven’t had to deal with before.  The things just seemed to never end.  On top of that, I made a few mistakes that caused more headaches for me and others.

The worst was having to cancel on a kid on Friday.  He had asked me on Monday if he could eat lunch with me with some friends in my office.  I said, “Of course!”, and each day after that when he would see me he’d say, “It’s almost Friday!”.

The look on his face when I said I had to cancel is one that I will never forget.  It’s the worse look anyone could give me – The look of disappointment.

I went down to his classroom later that day to apologize.  And here’s what he said that crushed me:

“That’s alright.  My dad does that to me, too.  Last week he said he would be home on Friday and he didn’t get home until Sunday and it was too late because I had to go to my mom’s.”

Great.  I get to be another adult in his life who doesn’t do what he says he will.

I had had it by Friday night.  I finally got to be home with my family and I was irritable, grumpy, and snappy — How lucky was my family!

However, I was really bothered by my inability to get out of my funk. Usually I can pack up the mess and leave it at school so that I can be present with my family.  But this week it just seemed harder for me to do that for myself.

What helped was talking with my wife about the week.  While I was airing my grievances, mistakes and problems, I started feeling a little better.  

What made me feel great was my wife reminding me of all of the the great things that had happened last week.

She sent me a text later that night after heading to bed before me:

“You should end your day focusing on the positive…that’s something to be proud of! Don’t let the little stuff get you down. And it is little stuff. Love you.”


We get trapped so easily by the things that don’t matter, that steal our energy, and put our focus on the wrong things.  We’ve all had that happen to us before, it’s life.

But we get to choose how we respond to these events.  We get to focus on what is meaningful.  We get to keep the main thing the main thing.

Shifting our focus to what should be taking our energy is a skill that has to be built and then work on repeatedly, just like a runner who wants to maintain or improve their performance level.

This week I am committing myself to building this skill each day consistently for 30 days — To keep my focus on the positive and learning quickly from mistakes.

What is a skill you are willing to work on?  How will you challenge yourself this week and beyond?  I’d love to hear about it!

Have a GREAT week!

–Herb

Tweets Worth Checking Out —

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Upcoming Dates — 
 
May 2 — ADE PTO Meeting, 7PM
May 3 — BIT Meeting, 8AM
May 4 — ADE Staff Meeting, 8AM –  R6: “Build Skill”
May 5 — Herb Mtg AM
May 5 — Flower Sale Pick-Up, 4-7PM
May 6 — BAC Meeting, 8AM
May 2-6 — Teacher Appreciation Week
May 11 — Spec Ed Team meeting
May 14 — AD/DC Warrior Dash, 6PM
May 18 — ADDC Staff Meeting, ADE Media Center, 3:45
May 19 — Herb Mtg AM
May 26 — Grow Together Thursday
May 30 — Holiday, NO SCHOOL
May 31 — ADE PTO Family Luau

Jun 3 — Last Day of School (Students)

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