What Does Failing Forward Mean?

Recently at a social event a person quizzically stated to me, “I bet you are glad to see the school  year almost over.”

I hesitated and then responded, “I feel like there is so much I still want to do that I thought I would have already accomplished. So I guess I am a little sad. I can’t believe the end of my first year as an assistant principal is already here. Now I have a lot of goals for next year!”

Aside from the fact that I love being at school and with students and teachers and never long for the end of a year or saying goodbye to students. I also see the deadline coming for meeting goals I have set for myself, for my campus, for my teachers and for my students. If I was within reach of the goals I set… the end of the school year would be a punctuation of celebration. However, for me it is not quite that.

learning

Couros, George. “What Success (and Learning) Really Looks Like.” The Principal of Change. N.p., 16 Jan. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.

This year hasn’t been so much about a gentle forward move on a line of progression toward growth, but an awkward series of stops and starts due to the learning curve that comes with being in a new position. I will say every experience I have learned something. I have grown, maybe not in the direction of the goals I have set, but still I have grown… by leaps and bounds, on my own and with the support of others.

A conversation that happened around the first of March with a mentor has stuck with me. I was in the midst of a large task that required decisions where there wasn’t a clear right or wrong/ yes or no. I had to determine what I thought was best. I asked for my mentor’s input.

My mentor replied,”You are going to have to make this decision for yourself.”

I pleaded, “I want your opinion.”

“You are going to make this decision. And if you fail, fail forward.”

At the time I was frustrated by this response. I wanted to have assurance that the decision I was making was right. I did not want failure to be a remote possibility.

There have been many decisions before that, and many since that conversation. Not every situation presented the opportunity to fail forward, but each one has helped me grow, strengthened me, and sharpened my focus as a leader.

As I reflect back at the year, I note where I have fallen short in reaching the goals I have set for myself. I choose to see the failure in reaching the goals I had set for myself as an opportunity to fail forward. Failing forward is what drives the goals for the upcoming year. It is in the failing forward I grab for what is most important and utilize that to sharpen my focus, be purposeful in my plan and lead with even more intention.fail forward quote

I do not long for the year to come to an end.  At the same time, I am eagerly looking forward to the next year, knowing I will fail again, but failing forward with grace, strength and the support of those around me.

I am no longer under the illusion that growth happens on a gentle forward moving line of progression. Rather, growth is a beautiful yet awful mix of stops, starts, crawls, runs, trips and stumbles that all move us forward. I look forward to failing forward.

How do you define failing forward? How does failing forward define your growth and goals?

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Learning to “TEAM”

teamwork-and-collaborationMany times when we see the word “TEAM” we think of its association with sports. Quickly we make the connection to winning. With a sports team every individual has a role and is trained and ready to fulfill that role so that the “TEAM” will hopefully win.

However, in education, we come with all kinds of different skill sets. Each team member will, over time, gain the knowledge and training we need, but if the idea of “winning” is finishing first, some team members may not have the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to be the best team possible.

This became very clear to me in another part of my life. I participate in a group exercise program called “Camp Gladiator.” On a very early morning in Mid-August the trainer split us into two teams. One team had to unload a numerous amount of weighted sand-bells from the back of the truck into designated spots across the parking lot until the truck was completely empty and then return the sand-bells to the truck. The other team was assigned to do multiple mat exercises and tally each time they completed a cycle until the team with sand-bells had finished the unload/load task, then they would switch. At the end of the given time, whichever team had the most tallies, won. The key was getting the sand-bells moved quicker than the other team to minimize the opportunity to rack up tallies.

There was very little in the way of guidelines. What took place was a few very physically fit carried many sand-bells at a time while the rest working toward physical fitness were left standing with little to contribute. Was it efficient? Yes. Was it effective in regards to the “team” winning? Yes. But what was sacrificed? Not everyone was given the opportunity to be challenged, to be a valued team member, to grow in their personal fitness.

As an administrator it became very clear to me through this experience, how important it is to communicate effectively expectations and outcomes to teachers both for the team and each member in regards to the work done in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Additionally, emphasizing the value of the process of learning and growth of both the team and the individuals of the team must be made paramount; not who finishes first. If the focus is on finishing first as the idea of “winning” it could lead to team members not having the opportunity to be challenged, to feel valued as a team member or grow in their own professional learning.

Coming back to that morning at Camp Gladiator, the trainer quickly realized that the lack of guidelines and the drive to “win” was creating a “loss” of fitness for some. He corrected with new guidelines that required each sand-bell to be carried individually, emphasized teamwork in the way of cheering one another rather than carrying all of the sand-bells, and created value for all contributors.

In the same way, as leaders we can course correct to ensure high functioning teams and effective PLCs. Then as educators and team members we are all truly #winning.

Having a “Can Do” Attitude…

Image result for can do quotes

I have had the unique experience of transitioning from Middle School as an instructional coach to Elementary as an Assistant Principal.

If you put a kindergarten parent side by side with a parent of an entering middle schooler, I am sure their fears and concerns would be very similar.

One thing I think educators and parents have in common is we often rescue our children when rescuing them only inhibits their potential.

When I was at my district’s convocation, George Couros reminded us of the importance of the learner’s struggle and the learner working through the “problem.” He showed us a video where a boy had created a “marble maze” with several dynamic and intricate pieces. The boy hypothesized that it would take him at least 100 attempts to make the maze successful. On his 4th attempt he achieved success. The setting of his goal, working through the challenges and momentary failures, and then being successful on his 4th try was amazing. Why, because he persevered and never thought “I can’t do” only that “I can do.”

I wonder, if we had seen this kiddos plan and intervened as his educator or as his parent, would we have limited him unintentionally in an effort to shield him from “failure?” Yet, without any input or intervening this child was successful and celebrated, that while his first three attempts were not a successful attempt, his fourth was, and was way sooner than his projected one hundred attempts before he reached success.

I have come to see how I as a parent, educator and coach can either encourage growth and a “can do” attitude or limit it (even if my intentions are to protect the learner). This past weekend, just before our district began our new school year, I learned of how Target took a new approach to their Back to School advertising campaign. They believed in the “can do” of children ranging in ages 8-17 and let those children develop, design and ultimately launch a series of seven commercial.

Here’s what happened when coroporate Target went from a corporate advertising team to a advertising dream team of students:

http://www.today.com/video/meet-the-team-of-kids-behind-target-s-new-back-to-school-ads-747775555841?cid=eml_onsite

My favorite part of this is that they felt that the adults “listenened” and “learned something from us.”

Going forward in this school year, how can we change the moments when we say “I don’t think our students/children can” to opportunities where we say “I know  you can!”?

I challenge anyone reading this to stop the next time  you catch yourself thinking my child/student can’t and re-think… how can I provide the opportunity so my child/student CAN? It will be a great adventure and in the process our children/student will know that we listened and we learned something from them.

Resolutions, Intentions, Goals… Always Progressing

2016 new goals

From the moment the ball dropped and we ushered in 2016 I have watched the goals, mantras, claims of personal “one word” and resolutions come across my various social media feeds. To say the least, I am amazed and sometimes a bit subdued. I admire the ambitiousness and timeliness of my virtual and face to face colleagues and friends commitments for 2016.

I almost talked myself out of even writing my own #goals. Then I read my assistant superintendent, Dr. Rob Thornell’s blog post about the topic (Make 2016 About Goal Accomplishment). It prompted me to reflect on my goals from last year, the things I had accomplished and the progress I plan to make this year. So then I felt compelled to at least write it down and share with a few of my close mentors and friends.

steve mariboli goals 2016

Then my virtual #blogamonth colleagues and PLN tagged me in a post. It urged us all to “jump start” our blogs. We had all had changes in our educational careers in 2015 and, at least for me, my blog(s) had taken a back seat. After some thought, and encouragement from this precious group of educators, I decided to go ahead and share my #goals for 2016.

blogamonth 2016

They are a little late, but here goes…

My #goals for 2016 are meant for all aspects of my life. In each of the following it is meant to impact my family and friends, my personal and professional life.

  1. Grow… mostly this is about my spiritual growth, but I am in an ever constant state of learning and growing. This requires me to journal more, read more and seek more opportunities to learn from others.
  2. Listen…I could explain, but this blog post “People Who Possess This One Skill Are More Likable In Social Settings” says it best.
  3. Celebrate… I have so many times in my life I could have celebrating small accomplishments, moments, blessings and I postponed or waited because it wasn’t “THE BIG THING” I was striving for… well no more!
  4. Invest… see #2 and pour myself and my resources into things that create meaningful results.
  5. Be Gracious… allow myself the opportunity to reset; give myself and others a break; laugh and cherish life in every moment.be kind and gracious
  6. Be Real… blog from the heart, bravely share mistakes/failures, share imperfections, own the “I don’t know,” and mostly ask for others to share this journey of life, learning and experiences with me.
  7. Be Healthy…keep running, be more consistent with weight resistance and core (pilates/yoga) training, make healthy food choices, and above all GET MORE SLEEP (4 hours a night is NOT sufficient)!
  8. Pursue with Passion… go ALL IN, don’t let a list dictate what’s going to be done (I am a habitual and obsessive list maker/follower), do whatever it is because it “drives” me.

consistency in 2016This list won’t happen all at once. Some of these things I have done, but I let go of them in my daily doing of life and are bringing them back to the forefront. It will be done a few things at a time, with thought, purpose and intention. Sometimes it may be awkward, it will be messy, but most of all it will bring me to a better place within and make me a better me.

Additionally I hope my efforts to make personal progress in turn enriches, inspires and encourages others. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see others succeed, and when I have had the opportunity to be part of that journey I thrill in the knowing I was a part of something great with someone else.

Adams quote for 2016 goals post

May we all inspire others through our own pursuit to be always progressing.

#BeUncommon in 2015

be uncommonThe year of 2014 has been a year of tremendous growth for me as an educator and personally. As I began to consider my first blog post of 2015 already a week ago, I struggled for words. When you are in a state of continuous improvement and growth, resolutions seem a bit unnecessary. I didn’t feel that way last year this time, but some events happened along the way that have changed my perspective.

The first event should be a celebration. I achieved my resolution to run a marathon in late February. I was foolish to think that it would be easy to continue to keep my running habit going. It was about mid-April when my running had decreased significantly that I realized I had lost my motivation.  I needed to set new goals for running to keep myself motivated. So then began the challenge of finding new ways to keep me motivated.marathon

The second event was the passing of a dear friend in June.  We were close many years ago, but time, distance and busy life stuff had its impact on the intimacy of our friendship. She was a one-of-a-kind friend. She help me find my way when I became a mother, coached me through the early years of marriage, and taught me why it is important to laugh and be silly. I had not stated anything in my resolutions to deepen the relationships with friends I had lost contact or make those friendships that mean the most a more significant priority. That was a critical change in direction of thought and time for me at that moment.

So I am looking at the beginning of 2015 and making resolutions a little differently. I wasn’t sure how I was going to blog about this and was having a bit of writer’s block (my apologies to the real authors out there who I may have just insulted). Fortunately, my pastor Chuck Macheca’s pre-New Year’s message helped to inspire what follows.

My plan for this year is to set specific times through out the year to assess my life.

First, I became more reflective in 2014. I want to continue to reflect. Blogging both on my professional blog and my family blog have helped me to reflect in ways I have never before.

A few key things I will ask myself:

  • What was the best thing that has happened? (professionally and personally)
  • What has been the most challenging thing that happened?
  • With who have I had the most valuable relationships and what am I doing to continue to foster those relationships?
  • What am I learning or have learned?

At this moment I have three words that I could use to describe 2014…

Focused      Relational     Faith-building

My goal is to every few months re-assess and ask myself what three words describe how I am viewing life at this moment and if those words have changed since the last reflection, examine why and is it for the better.

Secondly, I am going to take time to prepare.

I re-assessed mid-2014 and decided I needed to focus my efforts. I am still working on that, but I also need to prepare for the where I want to go next.

Questions that I will ask through out the year this year will be:

  • What am I doing that I need to continue doing?
  • What did I do in 2014 that I need to stop doing?
  • What do I need to start doing?

As of right now I know I need to continue to focus on relationships with all the people I come in contact with both professionally and personally. I need to continue to blog both professionally and for my family. Finally, I need to keep praying and running.

What do I need to stop… well that list could go on forever. I seem to find all kinds of vices, but two things I will focus on is getting more quality sleep and eating better. It seems simple enough, but for me this will be a minute by  minute, thought and action process.

Finally, I will commit to the basic mission of an educator.

What I do and say to both the teachers and students I serve is of significance. I must create in myself an “anything is possible” mindset and an attitude that an underdog situation is the best situation for creative solutions and overall student success.

gladwell_david_and_goliath_business_insider

I am midway through the book David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell where he relays the story of Vivek Ranadive’ coaching his daughter’s basketball team that lacked talent and whose coach knew nothing about the sport. It was in the sentence at the top of page 37 “He was an underdog and a misfit, and that gave him the freedom to try things no one else even dreamed of,” that I realized the gift of being an underdog. You have the freedom to try, to risk, to believe when the world says “impossible.” That is what I commit to, seeking the spirit of the underdog and to #beuncommon.  david and goliath quote

It is there that educators make a difference in the lives of children, unlock the magic of a learning strategy that makes what a student once thought un-learnable the stepping stone for ideas that lead to new inventions, and showing others that they are of great significance.

Yes, I will coach for significance.

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So this year is the year I will not have resolutions, per se, but quarterly reviews and ongoing check ins. I plan to #beuncommon.

What are your ways you are taking stock and coaching for significance?

The #nisdPalooza anticipation builds…

TechnoPalooza

This Wednesday, July 30th and Thursday, July 31st my district is hosting “TechnoPalooza.”  Three years ago it was a in-district choice menu Professional Development focused on Educational Technology Integration. Last year it grew within the district in popularity and was open for other districts to attend as well.

This year the planners led by Karla Burkholder (@techiequeen), NISD Director of Instructional Technnology (which includes the NISD Instructional Technology Team I am a part) decided to go BIG or go home.  We opened up for presenters beyond the keynote from all over, invited attendees from all over, and brought in vendors.  On top of that, there is a staggered schedule of presentations, choose your own session menu (via app designed by our very own Rory Peacock, Northwest ISD Coordinator for Instructional Technology) and choose your own lunch hour and lunch via Fort Worth Food Trucks.

I am not just a participant this year.  I have been given the privilege of presenting 5 different sessions.  How does one go from not being a session presenter to 5, you ask?  Well, that is for another time and another post… but briefly it has to do with Twitter, my PLN, my mentors and “What’s Obvious to You…” video by Derek Sivers.

Aside from that and being amazed at the offerings for learning, there are a few things I am even more excited about.  The amazing presentations coming from my team and the campuses I support.  From my team consisting of Charles Cooper (@Thrasymachus), Cara Carter (@caracarter1), Brittany Horn (@Brit_Horn), Ashley Chapman (@AshChapman3), Rene Egle (@ReneEgle) and previously mentioned, Rory Peacock (@rorypeacock) there are over 10 presentations just from our team.

In addition to our Instructional Technology Team are the Northwest ISD teacher leaders that are presenting.  Many of these teachers I have worked with over the past year or learned about their innovative approaches through our district Tuesday night chat #nisdNOV8.  Their commitment to great instruction, student learning and technology integration make them the perfect presenters for an event like TechnoPalooza.  A special HT (Hat Tip) goes out to Nicole Wallis, Kristin Dougherty, Christie Crocker, GailAnne Smith, Penny Rosen,  Sara Thomasson, Christa Pospisil (Popsicle :-)), Melissa Griffith, Rebecca Redman, Donna Thompson, Sue Fitzgerald, Hayley Sample, Nicole Covarelli, and Shelly Stringer for their risk taking in the classroom, transparency, collaborative spirit and enthusiastic willingness to present. I am beyond excited so many are presenting at TechnoPalooza.  So sad that I cannot be at each and every one of their presentations to cheer for them and learn from them.  The choice offered from this group is staggeringly amazing. Sessions vary from using Technology and Trash to Create Musical Instruments and Music to using several technology tools to create a platform via the BookCreator App to publish student written  stories (see recent blog post from our IT team’s “Making IT Click” showcase).

In addition to all this, there is an even more personally exciting aspect to TechnoPalooza.  Through the power of Twitter I have met some amazing people along the way.  The only shortcoming to Twitter is that the people I meet globally, I don’t know how I can possibly meet them all face to face.  So when I do, I am like a 6 year old on Christmas morning.  At TechnoPalooza I will have the great privilege of meeting co-cooridinator/moderator of #MTedchat Crista Anderson (@cristama) and Revdel representative, Jason Rincker (@JD_Rincker) which I now, because of our connections via Twitter consider as friends.  She will be presenting on Wednesday about harnessing the power of Twitter for connecting and learning. With Jason’s assistance, she will also present on Thursday about ways to utilize and target school communication as effectively as possible.

If you didn’t register for TechnoPalooza this year, follow the #nisdPalooza Tweets.  Next year don’t miss it.  I have insider information that the Keynote for 2015 will be amazing!

Is it time for a ROLE Revolution?

On Sunday I had the privilege of hosting #txeduchat.  The topic was “Results Only Learning Environment” based on the book ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19).

For a review of the book I refer my blog followers to my good PLN friend Joy Kirr’s (@joykirr) post on her blog last year ROLE Reversal Review.

Some may wonder why I have become so interested in this approach.  I have posted about my observation of ROLE at Coppell Middle School East.  I have further examined the idea of student driven learning and creating an autonomous learning environment.  My last post “What is a #growthmindset?” explains the connections that have occurred from the reading, conversations and professional learning opportunities I have had in the past few months.

All of this learning has me wondering… no inspired…. hmmm, no, more like fired up. Yes! Fired up.

I learn and lose sleep in my passion for learning. I gain great satisfaction and contentment when I set a goal, and even though it is a challenge, through perseverance reach that goal.   Why would I not want the same experience for my students and teachers? A joy for learning, if you will, well defined in @shareski’s presentation, “Whatever Happened to Joy.”

Yet, we continue to try to take some of the pieces of student-driven learning theory and retro-fit them to an antiquated grading systems and one-size-fits all curriculum. Instead of completely renovating from the ground up.

Every day I learn more about the ROLE approach.  I want to bring it to classrooms in my district, as I have never seen students transform into self-driven learners with such authenticity as I have with ROLE.  This approach seems to be made to stick.

#nbtchat meme

There are a few parameters with a true ROLE classroom… no homework and no grades.  Teaching must follow the workshop model approach and discipline is not an issue.

Intrigued? So were those that joined me when I hosted the #txeduchat on ROLE.

The following is a snapshot of the Tweets and links that were shared.

Q1A1 aA1 bA1 cQ2A2 aA2 c

@markbarnes19 blog post on Homework

A2 fQ3A3 aA3 bA3 dA3 cA3 fA3 hQ4Mark Barnes A3

@markbarnes19 blog post on Feedback

A4 aA4 bA4 dExample of Student Rubric for peer/self evaluation by Charles Cooper @thrasymachus

A5 aA5 bA5 cA5Q6A6 aLinks to school doing a ROLE Type approachSedbury School links: http://leewaysudburyschool.org/testimonials

http://sudburyschool.com/testimonials

A6 c

There was a real sense of urgency for change.  Many wanted to know how.

Challenge to be brave

Suggestions and inspiration were shared.

For integration and becoming paperless:

Going paperless with ROLE

For taking it back to classrooms:How to get it goingTo continue the dialogue and stay connected:

Mark Barnes FB gradesTeacher’s Throwing Out Grades FB group sponsored by Mark Barnes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachersthrowingoutgrades/

As well as the upcoming book chat on ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes.  Anyone is welcome to join #suummerROLE if you are wanting to revolutionize education.  July 29th we will be discussing chapters 1 and 2.

I am ready to revolutionize education.  I am eager to put in motion ROLE.  I look forward to continued conversations about student-driven learning that fosters joy and autonomy.  If you still need some convincing I leave you with this:

Anti WS memeWill you join the ROLE Revolution?

 

Link to #txeduchat archive for July 13, 2014:

http://txeduchat.com/2014-twitterchat-archives/07-13-14-chat-archive