Several months ago, in an effort to become a more dedicated and more skilled writer, I issued a challenge to several friends. These friends graciously accepted, and in turn, extended the challenge to several of their friends, and so forth. The challenge, in my ambitious mind, was to blog twice a month, sharing posts with one another. Each post was to correlate with a letter of the alphabet, I thought, as a way for me to stay focused...on Learning Leadership. I started strong, and went strong. For 8 posts. Then, I abruptly stopped.
After 8 posts.
After 8 posts.
See, what I was reminded of from January to June, is that for as much as we sometimes want things to go exactly as planned, they rarely (if ever) do. We can design the perfect schedule, hire and mentor the best teachers, adopt the best, most rigorous curriculum. We can have wonderful students, supportive families, and a trusting community. But much like what happens after the opening break shot, school (and life) doesn't remain packed tight into a billiards rack.
What I was also reminded of, however, after 20 years in education, is that every day we get a fresh start. Every day is a day to start over, to get it right.
So today, I wipe my slate clean and start over. But first, I'd like to attempt to close out my end-of-the-school-year thoughts...from A...to Z.
- Accept...my shortcomings, my weaknesses, and my imperfections.
- Believe...ALL students can achieve, and we must commit ourselves to entering our school with the best intentions for our school community.
- Choose...to see the glass as always half-full. Education needs this now, more than ever.
- Dedicate...myself as a learner, first. Several years ago, I gave up on the idea that any one of us knows everything. But I will not stop trying to be better, or to be great for kids.
- Extend...the invitation to learn, to collaborate, and to understand others' point-of-view.
- Forgive...myself for mistakes I've most made in the last two decades as an educator (and while I'm at it, my last four decades on the planet).
- Go. For It....with every new opportunity, to learn something new, to do something that scares me, to risk failure, to be better.
- Honor...our profession as educators, every day.
- I. See. You. Remembering that every student, every family, and every staff member has a story gives me the vision to be responsive to people's basic human needs, before all else.
- Juggle...the responsibilities of being an educator, be a husband and a dad, and being someone who struggles to keep work-life balance...or is it integration?
- Know...I am good at certain things...that I haven't always been good at...which makes me comfortable going into a new situation knowing I may not "get it" the first time around.
- Listen...to our students...to our parents and caregivers...to those who are willing to share wisdom and can teach me something new.
- Marinate...in what I learn. I don't always expect to walk away from a new experience with an exact, precise outcome, but rather one that I can integrate into my practice, a task, or a project.
- Need...feedback. From teachers. From colleagues. From parents. From students. From people who understand, who want to understand, and who disagree with me.
- Offer...100%. If I am going to expect others to do the same, I need to be willing to show my passion - for hard work, and always striving to be more, to do more, for others, and for something much larger than any one of us. And my willingness to be vulnerable, to criticism and skepticism.
- Persevere...through times that challenge us, that test our beliefs, that present seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
- Question...why we do, what we do. Ask this essential question: Is this what's best for our students? Will this decision yield an outcome or product that best serves our students and our school community?
- Respect...the perspective of others. Change is not easy. Shifting beliefs requires patience and a willingness to move incrementally.
- Stay the course. No matter what, don't quit. Don't ever quit, especially when it will result in improving learning conditions for our students.
- Thank...a teacher, a parent, or a mentor, whenever possible. Success is not possible without their support.
- Understand...that everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. Taking a step back to realize there are reasons for people's actions or reactions will only help us serve them better in overcoming their challenges.
- Value...the meaning of being responsive, progress and achievement.
- Wish...nothing more than to have opportunities to guarantee that conditions exist so students can be all they want to be, do all they can dream and aspire to do.
- eXtend...my hand, my ear, myself to help others as a servant leader.
- Yearn...to witness progress, to celebrate success, to understand why we do what we do.
- Zero in... on what matters. Being developmentally responsive and focused on academic achievement for each and every student. Being a supportive force for our parents and our marginalized populations. Being someone who is unafraid to give credit, remove obstacles, and to take blame. Bringing people together to learn, to celebrate, and to be celebrated. Being a small part of something much larger, something that cannot be tucked neatly and compactly into a rack.