Thinking vs Knowing

A thinking thought for today!

“There’s a difference in thinking you are a champion and knowing that you are.” Matthew McConaughey

What is the difference?

Is it because you hold a title?

A young mother fights breast cancer and becomes cancer-free. She is a champion. She knows what she has overcome and does not need a title.

How do you describe champions? Please share your thoughts.

It is a no-good, horrible nothing going right kind of day!

Have you ever had a day where nothing seems to go right? How does it make you feel? What do you do to get yourself back on the right track?

When I was little, my mom would tell me it was because I got up on the wrong side of the bed. “But yesterday was fine, and I got up the same way.” It just happens some days. You need to lay back down, take a deep breath, and get up on the other side, thinking positively.

I enjoyed reading the post from Jane Perdue. The link to her post from Lead Change is below on her “everything turns to crud.”

When Everything Turns to Crud

What to do:

When things are not going well…

  • Stop, think about your actions.
  • Take some deep breaths
  • Reflecting
  • Listening to music
  • Painting
  • Do something that helps you relax and refocus
  • Talk to someone you trust

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

If this is your first time reading a post of mine, let me please tell you I am not an ordinary individual who always does things the way you expect them to be done. So….I love Walt Disney, crazy acronyms, inspirational videos, music, and thinking way outside the box people feel comfortable being inside of with no complaints, well, a few. When asked, “Who else has tried this or is doing this?” No one, I don’t follow the paths of others; they follow mine. This needs to be your response to get things going!

I was an Assistant Principal in my hometown middle school with an enrollment of 300. It was not too long that I found myself as Principal of a middle school in a large unit district with an enrollment of 600. A very diverse group of students, low-economic and other challenges the students and families faced to thrive. Staff also faced many challenges as they had administrative changes often and did not have opportunities to connect for sustainability. The first words I thought of when I looked at the big picture for all of them was: relationships, trust, connections, and solutions. They all had been through so much and needed the essential foundations to build. We needed solutions that would not be complicated, simple to apply, gave all of us ownership, but most importantly, trust in ourselves, peers, staff, and community.

It takes work, time, and effort to make this kind of climate and culture change. It does not happen on day one. Consistency in what you say and do, today, tomorrow, and every day after. Believe entirely in what you are doing because the perspective of others is what counts in making the change!

On day one with the students, I asked them all to the gymnasium to sit in the bleachers to introduce myself. I asked all staff to leave. Say what? The looks on the faces of the staff matched that of the students. “This lady is crazy; she is not going to make it on day one!” I repeated, “It is okay staff, Take a 10-minute break.” Finally, they began to move. I could still see them standing in the outer hallway. Did they not trust the kids or me? Maybe both of us?

I raised my hand. I started asking kids to raise theirs. Soon everyone had their hands raised. No one was talking but looking at me, all 600. This is how I start to speak. I will raise my hand; you do the same and look at me with no talking so we can begin. I trust and respect you, so I do not want to yell. Could you show the same to me by following this procedure? Hands down

This is when I also tell them about only having two rules. We will talk more about how to implement these at a different time.

“How many of you looked in the mirror today? Come on; it is middle school. I know you did! In our main hallway, you will find a mirror I placed there. I will place some particular messages around it each week, so when you look in the mirror, you can think about my message.”

The one for this week is:

“Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world.”

Amir Ray

I was placed here to be your Principal. Many people from my hometown thought I had done something wrong. I asked why? They said because this was a horrible school. No way. It is not, and we will show you!

Now, please think about their perspective. People have a perspective that this school is not good. I am looking at you and know we can change that perspective. All we have to do is make a few adjustments in their minds to see through the mirror the greatness inside this school. It will take trust, connecting with our community, building relationships, and working on solutions. This will take time, effort, and hard work, but this will be the best school ever!

Active lessons in the halls

The mirror in the hallway costs $3.00 on clearance. It was one of those dorm room mirrors for doors. It worked out perfectly in our hallway, hanging horizontally. All students passed this intersection so they could all look in the mirror and receive my message. I am happy to help you with messaging if you have a specific area you want to address. It did help and was successful, along with a few other things we did. Our staff, students, families, and community worked hard to turn this school around to find success.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, what do you see? Students and staff working to achieve!

  • “The mirror reflects what you want to see, but those who see you reflect on what they see.”-Brenda Yoho
  • Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
  • “Reflect what you want others to see and be.”-Brenda Yoho
  • Mirrors don’t lie. They only show part of the truth.
  • “What you see in others has more to do with you than them!”-Brenda Yoho
  • “Your words are a mirror of your character; choose them carefully.”-Venkat Desireddy

Imagine, what words would you choose?

In 2004 Rolling Stones labeled John Lennon’s song Imagine the third greatest song of all time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_Stone%27s_500_Greatest_Songs_of_All_Time The list was updated again in 2010, and it remains in its same ranked position.

I have utilized the theme of “Imagine” several times over my career in education in different settings and ways. It is a timeless vision of hope and inspiration. The word has been used in the last couple of years as “re-imagine” to view how things already established should be changed. Could manipulating the word imagine like this take the elements of hope and inspiration away?

I am guilty of getting caught up in the overuse of word verbiage and trying to do catchy phrasing to grab the attention of others. Creativity should never risk the foundation of the meaning. Imagine is creating “new ideas.” We need foundations as a world to stand on for us to begin to live as one.

The song Imagine by Lennon was recorded in 1971. During this year, society was feeling the turmoil of the ’60s as demonstrations were being held against the Vietnam War. Apollo 15 landed on the moon. Gloria Steinem spoke in America at the feminist movement. A hectic time in society.

Looking at our society today, we are living and feeling turmoil as well. We have experienced demonstrations, an established Space Force now, and a “Me too” movement to support women’s healing involved in sexual violence. In addition, dealing with a global pandemic, mistrust in government, clear divisions, continued rise of social and mental health needs, and the list could continue. Parents are apprehensive about their children’s education during this time of shutdowns, mask mandates, vaccination mandates, curriculum modifications, and how to address the needs of all children.

Music and education reflect what happens in society during the points of time in history. One of my favorite songs is Heal the World by Michael Jackson; he released it in 1991. It is a beautiful song and reminder of clips of history we have overcome but still work to keep moving forward in making things better for the next generation. This short video clip of Kids United is from 2016.

If you could write a song for today to help inspire those worldwide, what would be the key phrases you would use? Would you please share a few thoughts and impressions? I look forward to words of encouragement, wisdom, inspiration, and more!

A foundational piece we can stand on to move forward with improvements for the next generation and to fuel our souls with hope begins with_________________.

Teachers and Leaders, encourage failure!

This title may need to be explained! It is not that I am encouraging all of us to fail but to innovate and become resilient. The title is also not saying teachers and leaders encourage their students to fail. It is the approach and strategies we use to help children grow.

One year the theme I selected for our school year was “Failure is not an option at SVMS,” based on the book written by Alan Blankstein. In his book, he points out six principles that guide student achievement. It is a perfect book to utilize with staff to work on improvement plans, reviewing data on instructional needs, practices, and curriculum. I was and am impressed with Alan Blankstein because he shares his own stories of struggles and how educators do change the lives of others.

But my title says, “encourage failure?” You can utilize the theme and the practices by engaging in examples of why it is okay to fail but not stop. We have many examples in history of individuals who failed but continued to try and found success.

15 People who failed on their way to success!

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/15-highly-successful-people-who-failed-their-way-success.html

Children need opportunities to learn, explore and discover. It is acceptable to take risks, chances, make mistakes and fail. Is your classroom or school environment a place where children feel safe to make mistakes, or are they working in an “answer getters” mindset where the correct answer is the only way?

I want to repeat one of my phrases for you: “Education is something we do with children, not to them.” To help build a growth mindset, innovation, creativity, resiliency, and academic success, “encourage failure.” Suppose children focus only on reaching the correct answer without inquiring the why, how, and what; then the next level of learning is never reached. How will we find the next discovery, cure a disease, invent a new idea or solve a global problem if we do not help our children learn how to dig deeper in their learning.

Feel free to reach out to Alan Blankstein @AlanBlankstein. If you have not picked up any of his books please check out his latest book Breakthrough Leadership https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/author/alan-m-blankstein

Help children build resilience by embracing the understanding of failure and the lessons they bring to help make toolboxes to conquer more issues as they are part of their path.

Never Forget

Standing in my 5th-grade classroom on the top floor of the school building, my best friend from high school appeared in my doorway. She worked at the school but I was not sure what she needed.

“Two planes have hit the Twin Towers; we are under attack.”

I did not process what she said and responded with “I have to get back to my lesson.”

“Do you understand what I am telling you?”

Looking at her with disbelief and then back at my students, I did not have any words. I knew I had to help them understand they were safe even though I was shaken, and today would be a day we would never forget.

Thank you to all that serve to keep us safe—prayers for all who sacrificed their lives and to those who lost their lives. God bless America.

Excellent quality-A season for everyone

Seasons change in our lives as well in our years. It happens fast as we get older, and we wake up to a new season we were not prepared for as we open our eyes.

Suddenly we look into the mirror and see a reflection we knew from long ago. A face that told us stories at bedtime gently brushed our hair and placed warm biscuits on the table to enjoy. How can this be?

The summer memories of the hot days and nighttime dreams of love, fun, and exciting times dance away. The fall brings the cool breeze and memories of days gone by as we face the cold winter. How did winter come so fast? I have many memories, but the aches I feel are a real reminder to me as seasons change, my days pass by more quickly.

A story I do not know the author of reminds me that the quality of our life matters more than the quantity of days. A life stretched across many seasons is wonderful if it is full of enriching the seasons for others.

The story goes like this:

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality wheat, and every season he won the award for the best grown in his county. One year a reporter from the local newspaper interviewed the farmer and learned that each Spring, the man shared his seed with his neighbors so that they could plant it in their fields.


“How can you afford to share your best wheat seed with your neighbors when they are entering their crops in the competition with yours?” the reporter asked
“Why that’s very simple,” the farmer explained. “The wind picks up pollen from the developing wheat and carries it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior wheat, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of all the wheat, including mine. If I am to grow good wheat, I must help my neighbors grow good wheat.”

The reporter realized how the farmer’s explanation also applied to peoples’ lives. Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. Those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

It is almost harvest time; another season has gone. As we learn from the stories shared, thoughts, ideas, and wisdom, what will we do? Another winter is ahead, a season for us to share. Let’s make the rest of the seasons more meaningful as we go. We are reflecting on the quality of life with the significant purpose of creating a positive difference in each day and moment in our lives and others. We can, we will, and we start today—life changes when we do. Positives occur when we focus on solutions, not problems. Joy is found when smiles greet the day; gratitude sees what is there and not what isn’t, and hope fills the space where doubt is pushed out.

Critical piece

"The miracle is not that we do the work, but that we are happy to do it.”-Mother Teresa

Leaders provide lots of information, data, strategies, and models for success. As a leader, you have attended workshops, webinars, read books, and researched all of the knowledge of “what works” to achieve success. Still, after all of this, you scratch your head when you see the data come in with results you think should reflect better outcomes.

Why? All of these efforts and the same results. How can we explain this? “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”-Craig Groeschel. Training, strategies, looking at data, and utilizing models proven to be successful should help us see growth and positive outcomes.

“You cannot solve a problem at the same level it was created.”-Albert Einstein. It is finding solutions to problems or issues we face that are complex at times. It isn’t that all of the things I listed are not necessary, but what is missing that is critical to ensure positive results?

It is a culture with a clearly defined mission, vision, and values. Leaders can explain the purpose of the organization in one sentence. Meetings, conversations, and communications refer to the mission, vision, and values frequently. Decisions are based on these as well. However, is it talking points and papers in a binder?

Ask these questions to reveal the answers to help guide in the understanding of the culture you have, what you should have and cannot have to thrive.

Culture Questions

  • Does your team enjoy being together?
  • How do staff interact together?
  • Do you have a process for the continuous development of staff?
  • How do staff feel about their job?
  • Do leaders model and encourage self-awareness and intentional personal development?
  • Are you able to have open discussions about the work environment?
  • Do you handle conflict?
  • How do you monitor or know about the culture?
  • Do you trust one another?

“When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together, and the organization grows stronger as a result.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek pg. 16

If you have ever tried to work in a toxic culture, you know first hand it is exhausting, and nothing can be accomplished. When individuals feel safe, comfortable with their team, and valued by everyone, they are inspired. We want to have these kinds of cultures as individuals love what they do, where they do it, and most importantly, “why” they do it.

Missing Out

I am writing this post thinking about families and especially children. I can remember days going home to mom and dad’s for Sunday dinner after church. Everyone crowed in for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade yeast rolls, noodles, chocolate pie, and so much more.

My husband and I had the opportunity to spend time with his sisters and husbands. During that time, it is always fun to talk about “growing up” and sharing stories of our children and for some of us grandchildren.

What kinds of things did you spend time doing with your families? How much time did you spend outside? I am worried about the children of today and what they would say to answer these questions. Watch this video: https://vimeo.com/133769368

Debbie Silver, Ed.D. is a former Louisiana Teacher of the Year, a popular speaker, and the author of best-selling books, including her latest revised Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 (2nd ed.): Raising and Teaching Self-Motivated Learners. (Corwin Press, 2021) I had the opportunity to host her as a middle school principal in one of our professional development days several years ago. She was fantastic, and the staff enjoyed having her. In the following post, she provides a thought-provoking look at the concerns I have for the next generation of children. I feel they are missing out on critical components in a holistic approach to growth by excluding natural play in nature, personal experiences in real-time, and so much more. Would you please leave your thoughts as you review? Nature is something we should nurture in the development of our future generations.

Helping Gen Z Students Balance Digital Life

Leadership is 360 degrees and 365 days

As we study math and science we learn a great deal about measurements. When we discuss 360 degrees, we can recognize this as a reference of measurement in angles, a circle’s circumference. If we compare to the temperature in Fahrenheit, it is above 212, the temperature of boiling water. If we include a calendar year, it contains 365 days. Leadership encompasses all of these components.

John Maxwell’s book 360 Leadership is a great book. His description of organizations needs leaders who can lead in every direction. Then Jon Lockhorst’s new book, Mission-Critical Leadership, reconfirms the importance of leadership at every level with the ability to support others at different levels.

The qualities and attributes of leaders identified as 360 leaders include:

  • Adaptibility
  • Discernment
  • Perspective
  • Communication
  • Security
  • Resourcefulness
  • Maturity
  • Endurance
  • Reliability

Leaders do not work every day, but their qualities are present 365 days a year. On some days the temperature of the situation they are working on can reach 212 degrees. This is when the steam pushes them on to reach extraordinary levels of accomplishment.

One of the elements missing in the description of a 365 leader is initiative. My favorite way to provide professional learning on this subject is through the book The Dog Poop Initiative by Kirk Weisler.

Action Plan

  • Call a team meeting
  • Prepare the meeting room with pooper scoops on the tables filled with candy (tootsie rolls).
  • You can tell the story as written or change it to meet the needs of your organization. I have retold the story utilizing slight variations.
  • Parts of the presentation provide pauses in asking questions to make choices and decisions. You can add: Pieces of litter on the floor, Empty bottles of drinks, money on the floor, chair with something on it (gum, spilled drink)
  • When you came in today, who noticed the _____ Who pointed? Who walked by? Who did something to clean it up?
  • Now you don’t want to call people out. This is shaming, bullying and can be a bad situation. We can do these as hypothetical questions. You can find video clips to use as examples to help reinforce the message. But as a presenter coming in we could get by with pushing the envelope without calling people out. They all know who they are!
  • Reinforce the importance from the story of the time lost, opportunities missed, and how one individual or group can impact the change needed to accomplish a goal (no pun intended.)

“Why you lead and the way you lead are important. They define YOU, your leadership, and ultimately your contribution.” -John Maxwell

As an organization, our goal is to be the best, serve others with high levels of respect and support each other to accomplish our goals.

Action Steps for leadership 360

  • Lead Self first- to lead in all directions, begin with mastering self-management. People will not follow you if you have not taken control of valuing your own time, have a clear focus and purpose. You are disciplined in handling your emotions. Could you make them want to follow you?
  • Lead in the middle-across- Leading in this position is a consistent state of developing and maintaining credibility. Individuals need to influence and build on relationships of trust. Providing peers with success, opportunities to voice ideas with allowing the best to achieve credit. Most individuals in the middle will not receive credit for the work they do, but they need to know others’ know-how valuable the work they do is.
  • Leading down- Learning about all of the staff is an excellent part of understanding how to serve your teams better. Know the strengths of the individuals to make sure they are working in areas to maximize the skills they have and prevent burnout. The goal of leadership is to help people succeed. Their success is our success. Inspire them through the vision and providing what they need to succeed.
  • Leading up-, It is important to remember we started with ourselves. To help lead up, we must be the best “us” we can be. This allows the entire team to succeed and provides upper leaders with valuable resources. When you perform well, you can step in to help with the responsibility of the top leadership to support the overall growth of the organization.