Transformation is in the Small Moments

Last week I was listening to George Couros’ Podcast “Innovator’s Mindset” Season 1, Episode 8 . In this episode, George spoke about change and whose role is it to lead change. He challenged the idea that to lead it must be positional, but rather, anyone can impact and lead change.

At the end of the podcast, he challenged his listeners to share a time when one had a “trajectory” changing moment. How have we used that fuel to inspire others…

He urged us to tell our story, just as he told his.

My story goes back to my first year back in the classroom after I had taken some time off to focus on my young and growing family. I had obtained a position in one of the most competitive districts in the state at that time. At orientation, we were told that for every position in this high achieving, fast-growing district, there were over 500 applicants and we should feel honored we were one of the selected. I was not celebrating this fact; I was overcome with fear. I didn’t feel I was deserving.

When I became the lead learner of that classroom; I was intense. I wanted to do my very best. I was always thinking and contemplating. How can I prove myself to be worthy of these students, this team I was on, this campus of learners, and this district of high caliber educators? Combine this with the day to day work of teaching, taking care of students, and the rare moments to reflect on the practice of being a teacher new to 3rd grade. I was split between being present in my role and being in my head about EVERYTHING.

Add to this, when I am in deep thought, I do not have the friendliest of faces. It’s my face. I was born with it. My resting “thinking” face is, well, not the nicest. In this time, I was doing LOTS of thinking.

Midway through the year one of my colleagues had a “transformational” conversation with me at lunch one day. She started off by saying, “You are one of the most passionate, thoughtful, caring teachers I know. I thought it really strange when a second-grade parent approached me and asked me what kind of teacher you were and asked, ‘Does she really like kids?'”

At this point, I am mid-chew and almost choke, as my heart is in my throat. What? Do I really like kids? I wouldn’t be in this profession if I didn’t like kids!

She continued, seeing my shocked reaction, “I followed up what the parent said by saying, Mrs. Wilson absolutely likes kids, in fact, she loves them! I have never seen someone as passionate about kids and their learning! Why would you ask that?”

At this point, I am shaking my head and thinking, thanks friend for having my back.

The retelling of the dialogue continued, “The parent then said, ‘Well, I have heard she is good, but I never see her smile, and I wondered if she really likes being here at school and if she really likes kids.”

I was still in shock.  I had no idea I had conveyed this doubt through my face which was in direct contrast to my heart for kids. After she finished conveying this information, I was able to tell her, “Thank you for telling me. It means a lot for you to share this with me.”

That moment changed so much for me. After recovering from my disbelief, I put a small wall mirror by the door of my classroom and every time I walked in the hall I saw my reflection which reminded me to smile. I also asked my neighbor teachers to hold me accountable with the “Check Your Face” system. I asked my colleagues to “CYF” me if I was not smiling or was donning my permanent “thinking” face.

The “CYF” practice has carried over into every part of my life. I try now to greet others with a smile wherever I am.

In my current position, I am the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, almost every interaction I have with my staff and school partners is through Zoom. I am always aware of my face and make sure it is saying I am happy to be here, I am thankful to be here with you, and I love working with and for kids.

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When George made this challenge I hesitated to share as it was such a simple, small thing that was transformational for me. Then I realized, every big change starts with simple, small things. Every conversation matters. Every person matters.

Just as I shared the story of one of my “trajectory” changing moments as an educator, I hope that my story inspires you. What “trajectory” changing moment has inspired you and others?

The Dance of Change and Progress

dont rushIn the process of change and progress there are moments of celebration and times of distress. Too much change within the systems, its supports and the expectations can take a toll. Learning how to effectively lead and support through the dance of change and progress is a dance that requires expertise, understanding and awareness.

Often the struggle is in seeing the potential in the change and progress that can happen, and pushing for that change and progress when those joining in the journey don’t yet have the same view.

How can a team move forward in a positive way to do the dance of change and progress TOGETHER?

I have been reflecting on my own practices to improve my approach in supporting my team as we earnestly work through the challenges that come with change and progress. There are three areas I have determined must be present in my own mindset if I am going to best serve my team:

  1. We ARE moving forward… be PATIENT
    • Keep focused on the work at hand- the harvest will come
    • Don’t worry about the pace of the progress and change- when you reach it, however long it takes, it will be worth it
    • There are seasons of life, and things out of our control; trust your team and be optimistic
  2. Be POSITIVE
    • Don’t complain or look for what isn’t done; focus on what is done well
    • Be intentional in your work/relationships; keep silent and let the work and others speak to the progress being made
    • Keep a perpetually optimistic outlook- perspective is everything
  3. Be TRUE
    • Trust the process and your team
    • Live with integrity- build, foster and maintain trust with your team

I realize that the points mentioned are not new, nor something that is unique. However, it is something I needed to reflect upon and humbly share with others. My hope is that I improve the dance I am doing with my team and through patience, positivity and truth effectively support them in their process of change and progress.

How is your team doing the dance of change and progress with you?

Relevance, Rigor and Research #TCEA17

Last week myself and Sue Fitzgerald (the library-media specialist at Pike Middle School- where I previously served as a Campus Instructional Coach) and I presented on an instructional collaboration we had designed together for our students and 6th Grade World Geography and Technology Apps teachers in 2015-16 at TCEA 2017 in Austin, Texas.

The title of our presentation was “Designing Relevance, Rigor and Research.” As we prepared and then presented, I was struck by what happens when good professional learning (through training with the International Center for Leadership in Education), a recognition for a need for change in instructional approach and a collaboration between educators with experiences and complimentary skills creates a framework experience for students that transforms learning.

Here is the result of the collaboration and presentation:

Sue and I are no longer on the same campus. However the desire to collaborate, create and transform learning still drives us both. There is nothing more rewarding than to create opportunities that drive student learning deeper and makes it more meaningful.

So I am faced with a new challenge… to find others where I am now, in my role as an Elementary Assistant Principal, to do the same collaboration and creating. Change is inevitable, whether it be creating the change or being thrust into it. However, change doesn’t take away our passions and our drive to continue to learn, strive for continuous improvement and collaborate with others.

I know that Sue will continue to create opportunities for her students on her campus, and I hope to do the same. Preparing to present “Designing Rigor, Relevance and Research” reminded me of that part of me… that part that seeks to find opportunity to take instruction and learning to the next level, the part that loves to create innovative learning experiences that spring board from my own new learning, and the part of me that loves to collaborate and co-create. Hattie talks about collective teacher efficacy… there is nothing like it. And why not do it? Research has proven that collective teacher efficacy beliefs “contribute significantly to the school’s level of academic success.”

Originally, change was what I was hoping to cause, now change is challenging me to action. What is change in your learning environment? Are you the cause for change or is change the cause for your action?

Donohoo, Author: Jenni, Author: Elise Foster, Author: Tom Hierck and Garth Larson, Author: Thomas R. Guskey, Author: Stephen Johnson, and Author: Jessica Allan and Nicole Franks. “Fostering Collective Teacher Efficacy: Three Enabling Conditions.” Corwin Connect. Corwin Press, 29 Nov. 2016. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

A Catalyst for Transformation…

Connections for how I lead and work come from all over.  Inspiration for how I coach others, inspire learners and share my learning often come from places that are not within the walls of the schools I support or the educational publications I read. Often they come from unconventional places like casual conversations with friends, Saturday morning ESPN College Game Day, and/or Sunday morning sermons. This particular post was inspired by the first in a sermon series by Fellowship of the Parks senior pastor, Doug Walker, called “Catalyst.” Doug challenged those listening on Sunday to be trans-formative with our faith in a big way, be the catalyst for change. Do something because it is for a purpose that is bigger than you, better than you and can, through your own actions, reach beyond you.

In much the same way we are at a crossroads of change. We have to meet our learners in a way that prior practice does not work. We have to connect with other educators and support one another that the prior isolationist practice cannot continue to successfully survive if we are to best serve the needs of our students. Those of us that know that change in education is needed, essential to the continued success of public education and the only way to provide a successful learning environment for our students cannot continue to  silently sit by an allow the traditional voice be heard. We must be catalysts… if for nothing else for a bigger, better world that may reach beyond you.

To capture the idea of how we can be Catalyst I created the Tackk digital poster below (click on it to take you to the full version):

 

See on Tackk.comHow are you being a catalyst in your sphere of influence? Please share your ‘catalyst’ moves.