Saturday, November 29, 2014

Holidays Aren't Always Happy

I remember working with a student who was having behavioral difficulties, and was often falling asleep in class. Getting to know him and his mom, I learned that they lived in a motel room off the highway. Mom worked in a fast food restaurant. Most of the time, she worked the closing shift, meaning she did not get home until close to midnight. This meant her son was alone in a motel room in a sketchy part of town from the time he arrived home from school until mom got home from work. This also meant he had to wait until close to midnight to get supper. Supper by the way, was the leftovers from the fast food restaurant.

Each year around this time, I wonder what ever happened to them. I wonder how happy their holiday season was. I wonder how that child felt when winter break began for him? He wouldn't be getting school breakfast or lunch, just whatever mom would be bringing home from work late at night? I wonder what that stuff tasted like the next day? I can only imagine what it was like being in a drafty motel room day in and day out for two weeks while mom worked. Were there presents? Was there a proper Christmas dinner? I know they had no other family, and that must have been lonely. The student eventually ended up living in a home for boys somewhere in the southwestern part of the state, and mom vacated the hotel room. I'm not exactly sure where she ended up.

I bring this up because it is important for us as educators to remember that the holiday season is different for everyone. While I'm happily bounding out the door on the day winter break begins, I know there are others who aren't looking forward to these coming weeks. Do they get to go home to heat, light, good food, and a safe place to call home? Not always.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives this season, whether we are thriving or surviving. In the coming weeks, be mindful of those you work with. While these can be times of joy, excitement, and wonder; they can also be times of stress, sadness and despair. Even those of us with a roof over our heads and plenty to eat can feel down this time of year. This may be due to the recent loss of a loved one, or financial stress from a recent layoff or pay cuts so easy to get wrapped up in our own. In your actions and conversations, keep in mind the reason for the season. Be sure to model and celebrate those things we call can learn and grow from: compassion, kindness, and, thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Thankful Administrator

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday. My transition from 11-month employee to 12-month employee has made it so that I don't get the day before Thanksgiving off anymore. However, it DOES ensure I get to host Thanksgiving dinner this year. Yay! I'm actually saddened by the fact that Christmas commercials are already dominating the airways so soon. Thanksgiving deserves its rightful place, and I feel lucky to be the one cooking that most important feast for my family.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have had the privilege of working in and studying in my fair share of schools, and in each school, I've had something to be thankful for.

  • As a student, I went to a high school that was so old, the first person to walk into homeroom every morning was responsible for reaching their hand in a boiling hot radiator to flip a switch that would turn on a blower to get the classroom warm. Equipment was old, floors were creaky, and there was always this musty smell... However, I was thankful for the experiences I had as a student there. I never really thought about the environment so much as I thought of the teachers who helped to shape who I am. They accomplished so much in spite of their environment.
  • I chose to spend my college years in an urban university in a southern state. Having grown up up in a sleepy New England suburb, it was certainly an eye-opening and life-changing experience for me. It is an experience I am thankful for because it has allowed me to look at the world from a variety of different lenses. 
  • As a teacher, I was thankful to have a classroom that was well equipped with a supportive administrative team. I never had to teach "a la cart" and I rarely had to give up my instructional time in lieu of assemblies, testing, or extra remediation time. I'm also thankful for the incredibly knowledgable and supportive mentors who have helped me become the educator I am today. 
  • As an administrator, I am thankful for the diverse learning environments I have had the privilege of working in. I have learned just as much working in a school that serves an affluent community as I've leaned working in an at risk community. Every single staff member I've worked alongside has been amazing in their own way, and I've learned from every one of them. Bottom line? Every school has its challenges, and they all provide opportunities to learn and grow. 
As time progresses, the craft of teaching and learning has not become easier, and it is not going to. We as educators did not enter this profession because it was going to be easy. We chose this profession to make a difference. In this season of giving, be sure to take some time to reflect on all that you are thankful for. Being thankful can actually be a pretty empowering experience...if you let it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ten People To Follow

A New Year's resolution of mine this past year was to see what all of the buzz was about on Twitter. That one thought was a complete game changer for me. Using Twitter has opened up a whole new world of professional development possibilities for me. 

In addition, those possibilities are not limited to the field of education. Several people I have followed are passionate about leadership in general, and I've learned so much from them because of their passion for leadership an what they have accomplished as a result of that passion. 

Below are ten individuals I have followed this past year. They are only 10 out of over 700, but they are 10 who have helped to put my own thoughts on leadership and education into perspective. I also chose these people for three key reasons: They are passionate about their craft, are willing to share, and follow some pretty amazing people themselves! By the way, this list is in NO particular order. 

Scott McLeod @mcleod - This is the guy who writes the Dangerously Irrelevant blog. He is a regular on several Twitter education chats. He promotes innovation and change in education, and has some great ideas on how to make that change happen. He's actually one of the first people I followed. 

Rick Wormelli @RickWormelli - Rick Wormelli's thoughts on standards-based learning really helped me to explain the process of sandards-based learning and standards-based grading to the staff I worked alongside last year as we were all wrapping our heads around this SUPER IMPORTANT concept. In my opinion, his thoughts can be an absolute game changer for any school or school system that is willing to adopt them. 

Donalyn Miller @donalynbooks - This woman knows kids, and she knows reading. I wish I had enough money to have her come visit my school for a month. I am truly fearful that fewer and fewer students are avid readers. Donalyn Miller is passionate about reading, and is equally passionate about getting kids to love reading. She is the reason why I ask in an an interview, "What are you reading?".

Wade Stanford @wadestanford - Wade is one of the reasons I took such an interest in Twitter to begin with. Not only does he have some great ideas, but he follows some pretty fabulous people as well!

John Michel @JohnEMichel - USAF, and a good solid mindset on how modern leadership should look. He has some wonderful thoughts, and shares some pretty awesome articles and pictures, too. I've shred some of his articles with my fellow staff members.

Pam Moran @pammoran - You should always follow educational leaders within your region. I enjoy Pam because she is someone I aspire to be. One can tell that she always thinks with the best interests of kids in mind.

Wicked Decent Learning @wickeddecent - OK, I know I said I was featuring individuals, but this dynamic duo are fellow New Englanders, have a great point of view on the purpose of developing a PLN, and also post some great infographics.

Dan Forbes @DanVForbes - This guy is the reason I stepped outside the educational boundary of Twitter, and began to explore thoughts from leaders outside the field of education. He is also the founder of one of my favorite chats, #LeadWithGiants, what takes place every Monday night at 7:00 Eastern time. It is really fast-paced - 10 questions in an hour!

Tiawana Giles @TiawanaG - Tiawana is the founder of #TheTitleOneChat. She is an incredibly passionate leader and learner. She has a lot of great thoughts on building relationships within the school community.

Daniel Buhr @Cybuhr - Daniel Buhr is not an educator. He is, however, passionate about the realm of leadership, and has a lot of relevant thoughts on the topic. In addition, if you are lucky enough, he will respond to one of your tweets during a discussion with a follow-up question that really makes you think!

As I said before. This is definitely not the be-all and end-all of people to follow on Twitter. However they are people I have enjoyed following, and if you are of a similar mindset, should enjoy following as well. If you have any thoughts on other people I should follow, please comment!

By the way, you can follow me at @JaimeStacy T

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Grass Isn't Greener

So, the school I currently serve has a completely different structure regarding exceptional education students than I'm used to. I've always been fortunate to work with an individual who is in charge of all things exceptional education. It is all they do. That person, known as a coordinator for special education would review IEPs, host eligibility and triennial meetings, and would also be the individual who one could rely on as the expert on all things exceptional education.

Here, I work with a department chair for exceptional education, but otherwise, I'm it... I've had seven years supervising exceptional education departments in middle schools, but there has always been someone to monitor all things exceptional education, and they did a good job of it! I felt comfortable making decisions with them to guide me. Now, if I have a question, my answers are a phone call away, but its just not the same.

Something I've learned about transitioning from one school system to another is that the grass isn't greener on the other side...its just a different variety of grass, and that's OK.

I have accumulated quite a few stories like this over the past few weeks. Does that make me any less happy that I made the decision to work in a different school system? DEFINITELY NOT!!! I now have the opportunity to gain a whole new skillset; which is exactly why I decided to go for a position like this to begin with.

That being said, make sure your expectations regarding a new position are aligned with what your desires truly are. Because there will be other "unintended consequences" you will face as a result of your decision. Bottom line,  make sure you enter a new position with an open mind, and a desire to learn!