Settle in the moment

Settle in the moment

Do you ever find yourself spending more time worrying about the “end” than appreciating the moment? Today, as I was looking out at the beautiful temporary colors of fall in Michigan, I found myself in need of some coaching to settle into the moment and appreciate what is–rather than worrying about it ending.

I worry about my boys growing up and leaving the house and forget to enjoy them now. I spend the last few days of a vacation doing a countdown rather than relaxing. I spend Sunday wishing for another day to get everything done rather than appreciating those precious hours.

My mantra today:

Settle in, settle in, enjoy the now. Tomorrow comes, needn’t worry about that.   

-Allyson Apsey’s voice in her head

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Go Big or…Go Big

Go Big or…Go Big

The stage is lit, and the sold out crowd waits impatiently for the first performance. Quincy Elementary teachers take their place off stage. The music begins, and then…magic!

In my first few days as principal of Quincy Elementary in 2014, I attended the first Dancing with the Teachers practice of the fall. In short, Dancing with the Teachers (DWTT) is a “Dancing with the Stars” style competition that is a fundraiser for our district high school dance program. High school seniors choreograph and coach the teacher groups. 

I never say no to the stage, and performing in my first ever dance recital at the age of 38 sounded great to me. I walked into the gym to begin learning our routine. Well, I learned more than dance moves that afternoon. I learned so much about the crazy staff that I now think of as my family.

To the Quincy staff, this performance was just another in a long line of doing amazing things together. I was in AWE, watching the creativity, the way they inspire each other, how they say YES! to each other to the most ridiculous sounding things. In the end, it is a sight to behold…each staff member contributing in their own way. Want to see? Watch one of the many performances Quincy staff has put together: https://youtu.be/aoWXLsWFxlA

Don’t take my word for it…I just joined the Q-crew two years ago. Here is what Quincy teachers say about the special thing they have together:

  • We started out “small” waaay back in the day and always try to out-do ourselves the next time. We realized a long time ago that doing big things like this is really about making memories and building our joy together! 
  • We do these unbelievable things because we dream big. We don’t ever take a challenge lightly. We always put 100% effort into something that represents our school. We do these things because we like each other and even if we don’t hang out together outside of school, this provides us with even more “team” camaraderie. We do this because we are kids at heart and love to have fun together. 
  • We have created an atmosphere that encourages risk. Our relationships make it easy to try new things because we know we are in it together
  • Quincy is VERY unique because something very special happens when you open up a building together. We came from all different schools, all different stories, and all different personalities. Some of us were told we had to move to this new school, some chose. Regardless of that, we started from the beginning and started to form what Quincy was going to look like. We melded together and became family. I look at it and I’m amazed that I have been blessed with over 10 years with some of these people. We have cried together, laughed and supported one another, through good and bad. I’m so happy that I finally came out of my classroom to meet these unique souls. Together these people would have inside jokes or continue to drive to make it “the best ever” and for many, it was something that they wanted to be a part of and participate in. When the new staff would join, they would see these relationships, and it was something that they too, wanted to be a part of. In so doing, our family grew and became even better. Goodness, we even have had staff that left, but simply missed “us” and came back! I do believe that having so many “over the top” men/women who always to go “over the top” with everything we do whether it is lessons or parties also adds to what makes Quincy special.
  • We are close enough to appreciate these moments and get all sappy with each other!
  • As one of those people that “came back” I feel SO lucky… those of us that have been together since Quincy was “born” are starting to realize time is passing and we have been through SOME STUFF! 
  • We may have our trials and tribulations, but together we are an amazing group!

As you can see, I have the BEST job in the world. The special chemistry Quincy staff has together means they are creative and willing to take on the world for their students. It also means that they are not afraid to question me or each other about what is best for students. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so proud of them!

Here is Quincy’s 2016 Dancing with the Teachers performance. Another winner! https://youtu.be/yL7yKCiYosk

Q-Crew, you are the best! Simply Q-inque! I love you!

New Ideas Can Be Scary

New Ideas Can Be Scary

Looking through my Twitter feed and listening to voice messages on Voxer, I found myself uncharacteristically dismissing ideas that were being shared. It was weird, it was like I was afraid of the ideas, as if adding one more thing to my to-do list might put me over the edge.

Reflecting on these feelings, I recognized that I am a bit overwhelmed at this point in the school year. When I feel overwhelmed, I feel weak and incapable. Therefore, intimidation and insecurity sets in as I listen to the great ideas of other educators.

When I take time to sit back and analyze how I feel, I try to use that learning to better understand people around me. Some of my teachers feel overwhelmed with changes this fall, and I imagine that their feelings are similar to mine–they feel insecure and want to reject new ideas that come their way for fear of toppling off the edge of effectiveness.

My number one job as a principal is to support my staff. I am their cheerleader, their shoulder to cry on, a bank of ideas, their YES! person, a model of innovation and failure, their accountability partner, and a little nudge to get better all the time. As a principal, I need to  understand what they are thinking and feeling. I have to recognize their feelings, validate them, and then help them move forward. When we have mutual understanding of each other, we can  move forward together much easier.

I feel better already, having thought through my feelings and gained a better understanding of where they are coming from. New ideas are scary when we don’t feel like we have a grasp on what is already in front of us. On the other hand, when we feel strong and confident, we feel like we can do anything. Let’s help each other feel amazing–no doubt that our students will be the benefactors!

Image credit: click here

Finding Diamonds in the Rough

Finding Diamonds in the Rough

This month, the #CompelledTribe is blogging about times we were contacted by a former student, telling us what an impact we had on their lives. Those messages are the best, they feel like a culmination of all of our work. I have been contacted by former students over the years, and their messages all seem to have the same theme. They feel like I saw something in them that others rarely did, that I dug deep to figure out what makes them tick and what their strengths are. The story I am going to tell you in this post is not about one of them, however. It is about one of my greatest teachers, my son.

One sunny afternoon, I was bouncing through my day, lost in my thoughts, and I happen to look out the window of the music classroom I was visiting. What I saw when I looked out into the courtyard is still crystal-clear in my mind, even all these years later.

I am slow by nature, but in that moment, I reacted faster than lightening. Busting out the door, I ran to the student–a preschooler who was pulling down his pants, about to expose himself to students and staff members as he “went potty” on the tree in front of him. I got to him just in the nick of time.

That little boy happened to be my son.

I could recount many stories like this one, for my son spent lots of time “in trouble” when he was in lower elementary. Now, he is approaching the last couple years of high school, and I cannot help but reflect on how much he taught me over the years…both professionally and personally.

He taught me that some students are hard to get to know, and are hard to like, yet they end up being some of the most rewarding students to work with once you work past the prickly exterior and find their strengths.

He taught me that some students say one thing yet they mean another, and that it is not because they are trying to be deceptive. Some simply have difficulty putting their thoughts into words or actions. They laugh when most of us would cry. They behave in disrespectful ways when they really want us to love them. They say they are bored when they are actually confused. We cannot assume what is happening on the inside of a child’s heart and head by observing their behavior, they often need us to dig deeper.

When I hear educators talking about “naughty” children, I hear them talking about my son. It breaks my heart. Children who need our love the most are sometimes the most difficult to love. The thing I most want to hear from my son’s teachers is that they see his strengths and care about him.

There were times when I felt like a failure as a parent. When I hear educators talking about “bad” parents, I hear them talking about me. Most parents I have met are trying their very best for their children with the information and resources they have. They need our partnership, appreciation, and loving honesty. Not our judgement.

I am challenged to remember that every one of our students is somebody’s baby. Most of our parents are vulnerable. Just like our students, parents need our caring support and they look to us as the experts.

My son approved almost everything I wrote in this post, except he didn’t like the part where I said I have felt like a failure. He said he would never see me as a failure. Man I love that kid.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

 — Goeth

“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.” 

— Horace Mann

Leading from the Inside Out

Leading from the Inside Out

Whenever I am in charge of others’ time, I feel a great sense of responsibility to make that time worthwhile and transformational. I don’t want to waste a single minute, and I hope the meeting or presentation is exactly what each person needs.

Every time a group of educators is gathered, there is an opportunity to lift them up, to inspire them to become more, to allow them to think in a different way, to help them connect. Whether it is a quick stand-up meeting or a full day of PD, every time we gather I am hopeful that they leave with an extra bounce in their step and at least a twinkle of an idea in their eye.

I have the opportunity to present at the MEMSPA State Conference this December, and I am so excited. I am nervous too…not nervous for the actual presentation, that will be fun. My nervousness stems from the fact that there will be many (I hope!) smart people in the room, and I am going to stand in front of them. I am not that smart…I am just a good thief, all my great ideas are stolen. My desire is to take the principals on a journey with me and my stolen ideas for that hour and fifteen minutes.

The journey will begin with laughter and connecting, and then we will think about our personal strengths as leaders. We will look at how change is motivated, the important role empathy plays in leadership, defining our school’s vision and why, and leading others through their strengths. The principals and I will set a goal for improvement from the list above and leave inspired and excited to get back to our schools. We will watch video clips, play a game, laugh and maybe cry together. There may even be prizes.

I relish this opportunity to become a better leader through this presentation. My session is called “Leading from the Inside Out” and although the title is vague, the message will be clear. Who we are inside as leaders is directly reflected in our work. The better we are at being empathetic, presuming positive intent, recognizing strengths in all staff members, being clear with the why behind all things, and understanding that change is hard, the better school leaders we are.

So the pressure is on, and the stage is set. This is the first time I am doing a presentation like this, and I certainly hope it is not the last. I cannot wait for you to join me (and Dave Burgess, Nell Duke, and Dr. Adolf Brown just to name a few) at the MEMSPA State Conference in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan. Here is the LINK to register.