I’m the Lucky One

I’m the Lucky One

‘Cause your mine

That’s all I need to know

The sunshine’s everywhere we go

-Faith Hill

We had a harvest-themed spirit day on Tuesday, the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out by now that I love any excuse to wear cowboy boots, a plaid shirt, and a cowboy hat. Fortunately for me, elementary students do too!

To start our day off right, we rolled a portable sound system into our rotunda so fun music would greet students as they arrived. We cranked up some Kidz Bop country tunes and danced along. As the bell rang and students headed to their classrooms, one last song came on–The Lucky One by Faith Hill.

Listening to the words, my heart filled with gratitude. I truly am the lucky one.

To work in a school where students excitedly hurry to their classrooms in the morning for a day of learning adventures with their skilled and passionate teachers.

To work in a school where relationships are top priority.

To work alongside people who recognize each other’s strengths and quirks, and who not only accept each other for who we are, but love each other all the more for it.

To eagerly head to school every day because of the positive environment we have created.

To love the people I work with so much that I want to improve every single day, and to hear them say the very same thing about each other.

To work in a school district that has tremendous community support and prioritizes “safe, valued, and loved” above all else.

To be paid to dance with students and to get hundreds of hugs a week.

To have the support of my family and friends, who see my cracks and love me anyway.

To be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, and to be as excited to go back to school on Monday as I am to eat green bean casserole and watch Lions football.

Yeah.

I’m the lucky one.

Listen to the song HERE

Comment below–why are you “the lucky one”?

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Thankful for WONDER

Thankful for WONDER

You would think Christmas had been moved to November 17th this year at Quincy Elementary.

Our fifth-grade students, teachers, parents (and principal) anticipated Friday, November 17, 2017 like it was Christmas morning. Like so many around the world, we have all fallen in love with the book Wonder and we couldn’t wait to see the movie.

Students told us they were nervous that the movie would not live up to the images they created in their minds as they read the book. They were so excited to see what in the movie aligned with the book and what did not. They were thrilled to have the lessons they learned by reading Wonder fill up the big screen at the movie theater.

We had a private viewing of the movie, so Quincy students, parents, and staff were the only ones in the theater. The students all said, “EWWWW!” during the kissing scenes, laughed together, cheered on Auggie and friends during the fight, and cried together. The movie was amazing and filled each student and adult in the theater with the same gifts as the book.

We were sad. We were worried. We were mad. We were nervous. We were happy. We were inspired. And then, at the end, we were so proud and overjoyed. Even the students who didn’t cry told us that they had “that weird feeling” in their throats.

Oh, R. J. Palacio, thank you so much for those big beautiful feelings.

Thank you so much for teaching our students how to support each other.

Thank you for teaching us to be careful to not leave others behind.

Thank you for teaching us to embrace our differences and to love each other because of them, not in spite of them.

Thank you for teaching us that not only should we be kind, but we should be “kinder than is necessary”.

Thank you for showing us how to be empathetic to others, and to see that we are all wonders.

Thank you for teaching us that even though bad things happen, our reactions don’t have to ever be mean or spiteful. Wonder shows us that even when those bad things are happening around us, the good outweighs the bad.

Wonder the movie was WONDERful–everything we hoped it would be and more–and we will never forget being able to experience it together.

This post was co-written by Peggy Greshaw (@MrsG5thgrade), the amazing Quincy fifth-grade teacher who brought Wonder to Quincy Elementary.

Want to learn more about the impact of Wonder? Check out this article from The Washington Post.

Let Me Be Your Shield

Let Me Be Your Shield

Our hearts break when we hear about the challenges you face at home.

We see the sadness in your eyes and the slump of your shoulders.

It feels like there is nothing we can do to help you.

We can’t stop your mom and dad from fighting each night.
But we can hug you and say, “I am so happy you are here,” when you arrive every morning.

We cannot make sure that you eat warm and nutritious dinners.
We can make sure you are never hungry when you are at school.

Your mom doesn’t pamper you and gently comb your hair each morning.
But, a hairbrush and pretty bows can be waiting for you at school.

We can’t keep your house neat and clean or keep your laundry freshly washed and folded.
However, clean clothes can be ready for you at school so you feel like the beautiful girl you are.

We cannot make you feel safe at night at your house.
We can make sure that you are continually reminded how strong you are.

Sometimes you feel like you are what they call you, that you are dumb and worthless.
But you can blossom at school and discover who you really are.

Your family may feel stuck and hopeless.
We can help you understand that there is a whole world waiting for you with unlimited possibilities for your future.

We cannot fix things that are beyond our control.

But we can take advantage of all of our minutes together.

To be a shield against the scary things you see.

To help you believe in yourself and have hope for your future.

To help you feel strong and to know your value.

Now that we think about it,

There is so much we can do for you.

We can be your shield.

Image credit HERE

Excuse me, but you are driving me CRAZY!

Excuse me, but you are driving me CRAZY!

She was getting on his nerves. She was moving after the school year ended, but mentally she may have already left. She was really quiet and hardly ever smiled anymore. The enthusiastic way she would share her ideas was a thing of the past. They still had two more months in the school year, he wasn’t sure either of them would make it at this rate.

He was being a know-it-all. It seemed like nothing she did or suggested was good enough. He always had the right answer. Just because she was leaving doesn’t mean that she became an incompetent teacher overnight. She was his teaching partner for two more months, not his assistant. How was she going to survive until the last day of school?

Two points of view. Who was right? Who was wrong?

What might happen if this teaching team continued as is for the next two months? How would it feel to students? Would the two colleagues be enjoying the last two months of a successful partnership, or suffering to make it through?

What might happen if he asked her what was going on? If he said, “You seem different. I know you have a lot on your mind, but there seems to be more to it than that. How can I help you?”

What might happen if she asked him what was going on? If she said, “It feels like my ideas aren’t important to you anymore, now that I am leaving. How can we make our last two months together as awesome as the past two years?”

The only wrong answer here is to not ask the question. Just one person needs to step up and make the first move. It is not easy, but it is fair. Making assumptions and passing inaccurate judgement is not fair.

You deserve better. So does your colleague. Just ask.

Image source HERE

These are my people.

These are my people.

These people.

They inspire me every day to try to become a better leader,

the leader they deserve.

They are brave.

They are creative.

They are smart.

They are skeptics.

They are hard workers.

They are crazy fun.

They are problem solvers.

Their smiles and good mornings

make every day the best day of the week.

They have the biggest heart for students.

I am so humbled that they chose me to be their principal.

They have given me wings,

they give each other wings,

and they give our students wings.

Thank you Q-Crew,

because with you by our side,

the sky is the limit.

Collaboration is not created by the arrangement of desks.

Collaboration is not created by the arrangement of desks.

Collaboration is not created by the arrangement of the desks.

When Doug Reeves made this statement at a Literacy Leadership Symposium I attended recently, I pictured one particular classroom in my mind. One where the desks are arranged in rows, yet I often walk in to find students with heads together in spots around the room, learning together.

Doug said that having classrooms arranged with desks in pods does not necessarily mean that collaboration is happening. Just like having desks arranged in rows does not necessarily mean that collaboration is not happening.

So, how do we create a culture of collaboration in a classroom? In a school?

Collaboration happens when

two or more people share ideas with each other and

build on their ideas and learning

based on what they hear from one another.

The little ideas they started with begin to grow

as they add to each other’s learning,

and before they know it,

their ideas are completely transformed

into something greater than they ever imagined.

Fake collaboration exists. It happens when we push desks together and call it collaboration. It happens when we change the name of our staff meeting to “Staff Collaboration Time” yet the leader still does all of the talking. It happens when one person dominates the conversation and others are not able to share ideas. It happens when we hand kids a worksheet and tell them they can work on it with a partner and call that collaboration.

Yet, real collaboration is alive and well in many schools and many classrooms.

What does it take to really collaborate?

  • Relationships, so there is trust and vulnerability
  • Valuing everyone’s ideas
  • Time together
  • The ability to NOT crawl up on the table with your idea
  • Transparency about the values and biases you bring to the group
  • An action plan for the next steps

Creating the conditions for collaboration takes modeling from the classroom or school leader and it takes a commitment from all group members. It is pretty easy to convince others that we are better together, but it does take some work to define how collaboration really happens. And then, once we create a culture of collaboration, we must constantly improve our work together because if we aren’t improving, we are declining.

Heads together excitedly sharing thoughts and ideas with an end result that surpasses expectations.

That is collaboration.

Want to see Quincy Elementary teachers collaboration in full creative force? Watch THIS

Image source HERE

Author’s note: Attending Adaptive Schools training has helped me reflect on my skills as a group member and as a group leader. Dr. Brandi-Lyn Mendham brought Adaptive Schools into our district and having this training together has set the stage for collaboration like we have never experienced before. To learn more, visit  http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/seminars/adaptive-schools-seminars/

Are you running on empty? Or, does your tank overflow?

Are you running on empty? Or, does your tank overflow?

When I talk with people about TV series that I watch, I never get asked questions like:

“How do you have time to watch television?”

“You don’t get paid to watch TV, so why do you do it?”

Yet, when I talk with people about blogging, Twitter chats, the Facebook Live show my friend and I just started, etc. I am often met with questions like:

“How do you have time for writing and tweeting? I could never find time for that.”

“You don’t get paid to host a Facebook Live show or to write blog posts, so why do you do it?”

The other day, I watched this video adapted from Daniel Pink’s talk about motivation. This information about what really motivates people has so many implications, from helping me understand the methods behind my madness to helping all of us understand how to help students feel motivated to learn.

To explain my madness, let’s picture a big tank, like a propane tank. Except that it is not filled with propane, it is filled energy.

Everything you do adds to the tank or takes away from the tank.

The things you love to do, that you are passionate about, fill the tank. For me, things like getting creative, trying new things, making someone’s day, helping others, and being playful fill my tank.

The things you don’t like to do but feel like you have to do, take fuel out of your energy tank. For me, doing paperwork or the dishes, remembering the five thousand things I need to pack in the car before I leave the house, and dealing with selfishness are energy depleters.

How often do you fill your tank?

How often do you something you absolutely love to do?

How often do you pursue something with excited curiosity?

When you wish time would stop because you are having so much fun?

How often do you empty your tank?

How often do you plop down on the couch at the end of the day, bleary-eyed and feeling sad for no particular reason?

How often are you doing things you don’t like to do, rushing through the task as quickly as possible?

When you wish the minutes away instead of enjoying them?

Are you running on empty, or does your tank overfloweth?

What about our students?

How many opportunities do they have to fill their tanks? Things they explore with excited curiosity, where they want time to stop because they love it so much?

How many tank-depleting tasks does a typical student have to do in a day?

How does the fullness of their tank relate to their enjoyment of school?

What happens when a student’s tank runs out?

Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.

-Yo Yo Ma

Check out my latest tank-filler, with my friend Jon Wennstrom: https://www.facebook.com/allyson.apsey/videos/176185766263933/