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?

A Quarterly Review: Progress, Process and Persistence

It has been 3 months since I posted my New Year’s post #beUncommon.

We all set goals, but what makes those goals achievable is revisiting them and assessing if we are making progress to meet them, what is the process we are utilizing to work toward those goals and what level of commitment… in many cases persistence are we employing to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves.

The following were the “Resolutions” or goals I have set for myself for 2015 related to the #beUncommon post.

2015 Resolutions I have not blogged as much as I would have lilked with my family blog… but I am very content with the amount of content I have written for my professional blog.

Our family has continued regular attendance with the church we are members… we only miss when we are sick or are out of town. Our kids make sure of it. This habit has been embraced by our children as much as it has been a desire for my family to attend regularly.

I am well on my way to achieving my #500in2015. As of this post I have logged 148 miles.  I have run one half marathon and am making plans running the other 2 this fall.

The weight loss is probably my greatest challenge. I am happy to report that my exercise, healthy food choices and water intake has become a lifestyle change. I am confident that with patience the weight loss will follow.

I do continue to struggle with the friend time in the purposefully planned family and friend time. I have great ideas but my follow through is a bit lacking. I am not sure if it is my schedule or my friends’ schedules, but I know this has continued to be a resolution that is not improving. I will say family time has improved. So I am going to celebrate what I have made progress on… and persist a bit more to make time for friends.

Finally, the seeking God, sharing his love and trusting his plan for me and my family. I will be honest, this comes in waves. However, one thing I know is the gift I have been given to work with the youth program with my church. Every Wednesday I get to know, share and love on the 6th grade girls that come to life-group. I have watched these girls grow in faith, love for one another, and a passion to pray for others. It is such a privilege to see first hand these girls learn, share and create a little community of support. They have taught me so much about patiently waiting for the right timing and simplistic joy. I was supposed to facilitate spiritual learning as they sought answers, but in the process they taught me. Most of all, they have my heart.

As I look back at the first quarter of 2015, I am blessed. I have progressed, it is still a process, and yes, I will persist.

As you reflect over the first quarter of 2015… how are you progressing, processing and persisting through your goals?

Sowing Seeds and Reaping the Harvest…

I have been reflecting a lot lately on my role as an Instructional Technology Coach. This position in education is at the cusp of innovation and change.  A wonderful place to be if you are all about “new and different” and a very uncomfortable place to be if you fear change.

My practice of reflection sometimes brings me solutions in lightening bolt fashion. I like that, it’s efficient and helps me move quickly into action. Lately, though, the reflection has been a slow cooker realization.

What was this realization?  In order to gain buy in and move ALL educators I work with toward full technology integration I was going to have to do some work.  Work that would seem insignificant to some, menial to others and mundane to those that like the “spice of life.” I was going to do have to be like a patient farmer… and not just any farmer, a fruit tree farmer.

Seed quote

It all begins by sowing the seeds.

How does that look?

1.  Being a servant-leader: Often the fruits of students and teachers are rooted in the soils and seeds I have planted and nurtured.

2.  Working behind the scenes: That means keeping the equipment running, watching the forecast and trouble-shooting the challenges so that when the flowers of creativity bloom for teachers and students and the fruits of excellence grow heavy on the limbs, then the harvest of learning is plentiful.

3. Rolling up the sleeves and be willing to make difficult climbs: One must be able to climb high into the tops of the trees and take risks to prune so that the next year the harvest is plentiful. Sometimes I am left alone to climb, but often with coaxing and encouragement I find brave souls that will climb and prune with me. They are ready to soar to even higher heights with even greater harvest the next year.

4. Humility and hard work is necessary and three-fourths of the process: If the preparation of the soil, the plowing of the ground, the sowing of the seed, the pruning of the limbs and the weeding is not done, then the other one-fourth… the harvest will not happen. The focus is always about the harvest (end result), not about the planting (although essential to the end result).

5. Celebrate the harvest and the one who reaps it: I am a lover of even the smallest results of the harvest. Whether it be great or small, I still celebrate and value every fruit. Whether there is plenty or it is scarce, I celebrate, because ultimately fruit was produced!

6. Be unconditional: Provide the growing crop unlimited enthusiasm, joy, grace, forgiveness, and… yes, unconditional love.

So what does this all mean? I love the quiet, behind the scenes, servant-leader; hands-on, pruning, weeding, hard-working coach I am. I am working on being a humble, bottomless resource of joy, enthusiasm, grace, forgiveness and love. Why? Because it is how I plant seeds, it is how I move my teachers and students forward.  It is how many of my mentors have treated me.

I am here to win people over to best practices with the integration of technology.  If that means I run an errand for a teacher to develop trust, listen to a difficult conversation to support a teacher leader when it doesn’t directly relate to integrating technology, or patiently accept a substitution activity when the possibility of a modification activity is there because that is  one step closer to integration than last time for that teacher, I do it. I do it because I am planting seeds, so that someday there is a harvest.  A harvest that students will benefit and feast upon. A harvest of critical thinking, problem solving, creative, future-ready students who will change the world we know today for the better.

That’s the harvest my planting will reap.

I would love to know about the seeds you are planting. Please leave your comments and thoughts.