Monday, September 1, 2014

#ArrowPride is Here!

#ArrowPride is Here!

I am a part of something incredible.  

      I've waited to write about what is happening in our school and our district, not because I haven't noticed, or because I'm not excited, but because I don't know that I have the ability to fully communicate just how much I have noticed or how excited I am. 
      I'm afraid that I don't have the eleoquence to share just how magical this first week of the 2014-15 school has been.  How do I put into words the choking feeling I get in my chest when I see the way that our teachers and staff and joking and laughing in ways that they weren't doing last year?  How do I write about the tears that I shed as I listened to others share their challenges during our staff luncheon on Wednesday? Or the giggles we all shared as others shared the stories of how they met their spouses? 
       How do I tell about the goosebumps I get when a staff member of 27 years comes in and thanks me for what she says has been the best start of the school year she has ever had- that she feels so hopeful and excited for this school year in a way that she has not felt before? 

       How do I express how inspirational it is when staff member after staff member launches their first blog post, baring their hearts to the world?  When they jump into Twitter, holding each other's hands?  When a first year teacher designs a logo for us and then another one for a potential bumper sticker? When a business owner tells me that she has been hearing really great things about our school and what is happening there?  When someone like Missy Emler, newly a member of the CESA 3 team, writes a blog post highlighting what is taking place here? (You can check out her blogpost here:

      Something magical is happening and I don't know if words can ever truly capture magic.

      But, as so many have said, if I don't tell the story, who will?  And who has the unique perspective that I am priveleged to have?  So please know , whatever enthusiam and excitement I am able to convey in this post, should be multiplied by 100 to equal what I am really feeling inside.

      You see, I am JACKED UP!  Fully, 110%, no holding back...JACKED UP.  For those of you who know Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), you will recognize that as one of his signature phrases.  We were so fortunate to have Jimmy join us for our district-wide Back to School session on Tuesday.  And in typical Jimmy fashion, he brought it.  BROUGHT IT! He had us laughing, reflecting, talking to one another, feeling encouraged and motivated...all in an hour and half session.  The speed dating activity he led following his session allowed staff to meet face to face with others that they might never have met.  I connected with middle school and high school staff and was finally able to put names with faces.  Afterwards, as a district, we traveled to a nearby park to enjoy a picnic and continue the conversations that had begun earlier.  It was magical to see the way that everyone was connecting- and by everyone, I mean EVERYONE.  Secretaries, bus drivers,paraprofessionals,  teachers, kitchen staff, custodians, administration- we were all there, celebrating and honoring the important roles that we each play within our district.  The talking and laughing just didn't stop.  One note that Jimmy made to me was that he couldn't tell who was who- teachers, administrators, custodians, assistants, food service, bus drivers:  all were interacting and mingling without any distinction.  He noted that this is not the case everywhere and that we should be proud of this interaction.  We truly are a team- a team working together to create the very best experience for the students of our district. 

     I won't lie- seeing Jimmy Casas in action was incredible.  He had staff talking and laughing, high fiving each other, and reflecting on their own actions and beliefs. I appreciated so many things about his visit: the "pump you up" messages (and there were plenty of those)  but also the way he made us think: he asked "Why are we doing what we do?  Why aren't we celebrating everything that we already doing?  Are we showing each other just how much we believe and trust in one another?  Do we show our students that we believe in them?  Do we consider where they are coming from?  Are we doing everything that we can to instill pride in ourselves, to celebrate our achievements?  Are we remembering to have fun?"  I saw many heads shaking as he spoke.  
      But maybe the most important thing he did was to give us all permission to believe in what we are doing.  "If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking permission."   I am passionate about what I do, and I wholeheartedly believe that I have the best job in the world.  Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to feel this way about what they do for a living.  I get that- but sometimes I have felt that I need to hide just how deeply I feel about my role in education. I am done with hiding how I feel.  This is what I was put here to do- make a difference in the lives of children and their families, in whatever way that I can.
      Jimmy left us last Tuesday with a challenge:  each staff member was to choose one Take Away- one thing he/she was committing to work on this school year- and email that committment to the two bulding principals.  I sat in my office on Tuesday night at midnight, crying as I read what people had written.  Written with their hearts, being completely transparent and open on where they want to go this year.  How do I put into words just what a privilege that was for me to witness?
       Every single day, even in the difficult moments- especially in the difficult moments- it is a privilege to be a member of the Lancaster school district.  We are seeing #ArrowPride take off in ways that we never expected.  Staff across the district are connecting and working together, highfiving one another, complimenting and supporting one another.  

      A few weeks, ago, I was seeing Possibilities.  Today, as we prepare for tomorrow's opening day, I am seeing so much more. Those possibilities are coming to fruition and I am blessed to be here to witness that.  

       Look out, world, we are just getting started- and there's no limit to what we can do- TOGETHER.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

See the Possibilites

We have a sign in our house that says simply,  "See the possibilities".  It's something that I have always tried to do:  tor example, being able to see the potential left in an old piece of furniture.  Or what could happen if we just tried doing something a little differently.  The potential of a child...  See the possibilities.

Today, I had that reaffirmed in a multitude of ways.  Our PBIS team met this afternoon to work on our rollout and fine tune all of the different pieces that go into such an endeavor.  I tell you, that team of educators was on fire!  The laughter, camaraderie,  ideas.... it was just happening in that room.  Some tasks we did as a group, others we broke down into smaller tasks that could be handled by two team members.  We were able to cross off so many items that were on that To Do list- in part because of their enthusiaam, but mostly because of the trust that they have built among themselves during this last year of learning and planning together.  That is huge.  And it was an honor to be a part of that experience today.  They are seeing the possibilities in teamwork and collaboration.

Tomorrow and Wednesday are our district's student registration days.  It's a lot of work for the district's secretaries and I appreciate all that they do to assist our families with this.  But tonight, I am feeling even more grateful, because this year, they are trying something new, something different.  Rather than hold registration in each of the buildings, as it has been done in the past, they are all coming together in one location. One stop registration, so to speak.  It would have been easier for them to stick with the old way, the safe and comfortable way- but because doing it in this one location could be more convenient for our famiiles, they are willing to try it.  They've been meeting and planning, getting everything in place to make the entire process better for everyone.  They are seeing the possibilites in a new approach.

Grade level teams have been having  Back to School shopping outings- taking their new team members off to go shopping, helping them determi ne exactly what they need to buy and avoid what might seem like a "Must Have" but will prove to have been a waste of precious funds.  In the process, I have heard of lunches out, lots of laughter, and new staff expressing how glad they are that they are joining the Winskill Team.  They are seeing the possibilities in one another.

I have been honored to listen as staff members have stopped in to share the learning that they have been involved with this summer and upcoming months.  Classes on English Language Learners, the Daily 5, Educator Effectiveness, math instruction, technology, autism,  Donalyn Miller's October workshop...  our staff seeing the possibilites in themselves.

We have more staff than ever before blogging. Thanks to the encouragement and modeling of one of our new staff members, Margaret Bussan,  two new blogs have been created and I have no doubt that more are to follow.  I would share that Margaret commented at her interview, "I checked out your blog, and you need to write more."  (very respectful tone, I might add)  And so here I am- writing again.  Youcan check out her blog, Running Through 4th Grade at   Jim Addison's new blog, Black and Green and Everything In Between can be found at  and finally, second grade teacher, Missy Sperle is jumping into blogging with Sights and Sounds from Second Grade at .  We are all seeing the possibilities in the power of the written word and what we have to share with the world.

Change is inevitable, it is true, but the educators that I am honored to work with see those changes as possibilities.

There is an excitement and energy in our school right now. You cannot fake it, nor force it.  As the lead learnier, I can only support and and model and sometimes, just get out of their way!  Because I see the possibilities....

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Principals Are People Too

I was recently challenged to participate in this Principals Are People Too blog topic- and I am thankful for that challenge.

I must have been a very frustrating child for my parents to raise.  (Thank goodness they never gave up on me!)  I have a tendency to be a bit contrary at times.  For example, growing up in Indiana, I was well aware of John Mellencamp (garage back days) earlier than many of my raised out-of-state college, naturally, when the whole John "Cougar" Mellencamp craze came about, I was done.  Everyone else loves a book- please don't tell  me that I have to read makes me put it on hold.  And yes, I do realize how ridiculous this all is- I missed out on The Fault in Our Stars for six months because of this.  So, you can imagine my reaction when everyone in my PLN kept telling me that I need to blog.  Ummmm, "No thanks."  "I'm good." " I'm too busy." "No one wants to hear/read what I have to say."    Fear? Shyness?  Probably. But a large part of my resistance was me just being contrary.  Or maybe there are so many Must Do items in life that when there comes a time that I actually have a choice, I choose "No."  I wonder how many of our students do the same?  They feel a loss of control in other areas, so they seize the little they can control.

But here's the thing- once I try one of the things that I have been so resistent to, I tend to LOVE it!  Twitter, Voxer, EdCamps.... all examples of new things that came my way and that I have become a strong advocate of.  What I have learned (hey, I'm a slow learner) is that people are not encouraging me to try these new things because they want me to fail. Indeed, it is the exact opposite.  I am important enough that they want me to succeed!  This is certainly the case for my Voxer Family.   I cannot imagine life without their daily dose of humor, reality, advice, honesty...  So when the challenge was extended to write a blog post on the topic of Principals Are People Too, I just couldn't allow that contrary, Just Say No side of me come out to play.

Principals are people too.  Indeed we are. As much as I try to present the image of Calm and Collected, sometimes I lose that cool.  While I don't have a problem seeking help in learning new things, I sometimes struggle to share the load.  I need to be better at saying "Yes, thank you!" when someone offers a helping hand.  I need to do a better job of allowing myself to focus on things beyond my job.  When you are married to another educator, it is very easy to talk shop ALL the time.  I need to learn to shut that down.  I need to find more balance in my life.  This is a message that I have shared with staff, encouraging them to take the entire weekend and focus solely on themselves and family.  Yet I don't follow my own advice nearly as often as I should.   My Voxer Family has helped me with this realization.  They remind me that it will all be there tomorrow- but my children, my family, my friends may not be.

So, I am going to say good-bye for now.  I will be back- and it won't take 10 months for my post to appear.  But in the meantime, I have an evening planned with some very special people.