Monday, August 12, 2013

Why I Lead #SAVMP

As a participant in the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program, one of the challgenges given to me is to reflect on my practices as an adminstrator through my blog.  And as I notice that my first (and only) post was dated on July 6, it seems that it is a good challenge for me to have.

Why do I lead?  I have been pondering this question quite a bit this summer.  I have to admit- it was a rough first year as an administrator.  Lots of challenges, lots of situations that I could have never imagined having to face.  Yet, face them I did.  Some I met more effectively than others. Still, through the toughest times, I never considered NOT meeting the challenges head on.  Does that quality make me  a leader?  I would like to think that it does.  Does my willingness to look at a situation and reflect on what I could have done better make me a leader?  I hope so. I am a leader because someone else led me.  They believed in me, in the qualities that I showed in the classroom, in staff meetings, in the community- and then they gave me opportunities to further develop those qualities in a larger arena.  Colleen Pacatte was my key mentor during this process, though she certainly wasn't the only one who encouraged me to stretch my wings.  Colleen encouraged me to join a group of highly motivated, invested members of the school community to design and bring to life a very special school.  If you have ever been a part of building something from the ground up, you understand just how rare an opportunity this was.  Every single piece of how that school would run, from classroom design, to having a dining room versus a lunch room, the unique 8th grade Spotlight banquet we created to honor our graduating 8th graders, the monthly recognition ceremonies, held long before PBIS came to be...came from US- the staff members, parents and community members who invested countless hours to make sure everything was in place, who believed that we were creating something incredible.  I had ownership in that school, stock that paid in dividends that cannot be counted in terms of a bank account.  It was a heady experience- one that was almost impossible to walk away from.  And yet, when the time came, I was able to walk away, taking with me the knowledge and confidence I had gained from the experiences I had as a part of the staff at Gurnee Grade School.  I lead because I know how incredible it feels when someone believes in you, believes that you can make a difference.  I lead because, deep down, I believe that we all are capable of being leaders- in different ways, in different situations.  It is our responsibility to share that leadership with those around us, to foster the talents of our staff, to share the awesome feeling that comes from building something special.  This  is why I lead. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

First we get started...

This post has been a long time in coming to fruition- written in response to a friend who has been very patient in waiting for me to fulfill a promise that I made to him months ago.  Way back in March, I was fortunate to have met George Couros while at ASCD 2013, along with a plethora of educational leaders whose work I greatly admire.  To be honest, I was rather star struck.  As a first year administrator, it was rather surreal to find myself in the midst of such greats as George, Dave and Shelley Burgess, Jimmy Casas, Dr. Joe Clark, Tom Whitby, Joe Mazza and Eric Shenniger, just to name a few.  Because of Twitter, I was warmly welcomed into their conversations.  It didn't hurt that I was with Tom Whitford  (aka @twhitford)  who had been chatting with so many of these people much longer than I had.  I did what I usually do in a new situation- stand back and observe, just soaking it all in.  But George quickly put an end to that, pulling me into the center of things.  He encouraged me to share what I know, what I am thinking, and what I have been learning this year.  Over lunch, George, Tom and I chatted about ways to support staff in response to all of the new initiatives that are coming our way, as well as the goals that we each have set for ourselves.  George answered many questions, but asked just as many of us. If you have met him, you will understand what I am talking about.  George pushes your thinking, challenges your responses, makes you really consider what you believe.  I appreciate that about him, even as I occasionally shook my mental fist at him.

Still, having made a promise to him that I would start blogging that very weekend, I found myself stalled.  I blamed it on needing to reconnect with my children, with the intense workload waiting for me back in my office, on just about anything that let me off the hook for not following through.  But when I am being truly honest with myself, it was procrastination out of fear.  Fear that I would not be successful at this new skill, fear that I might be mocked, or challenged in my thinking, or that I might even misspeak and say something that I shouldn't.  I recently read Ben Gilpin's blog post  on The Fear of Sharing  (if you haven't read his work at  , you should definitely do so)  I admire Ben's work a great deal and the idea that he has had the same fears that I have been facing is reassuring.  It was also motivating.

This is just the beginning- but it is a beginning.  Someone I greatly admire has often told me, "First you get started, then you get better."  I am finding that this philosophy helps me continue on when I stall, looking for the perfect moment, or the perfect decision.  There is no such perfection, but as Maya Angelou said, "When you know better, you do better."  What inspires you when you stall?  How do you battle self-doubt?  What are you beginning?

And, George, thanks for the push!