Category: School Leadership

Not me, not today, maybe tomorrow

Have you ever questioned if you should, could, or would? Is there a voice that tells you not today, maybe tomorrow, but when it becomes tomorrow, you start over?

If this sounds like you, you are not alone! How do you overcome this negative talk? One day, each moment and every second of the day by saying: I can, I will, I am going to work each day to get closer to my goals and to make a positive impact. We do not have to invent the next big device, create the best masterpiece or become famous for a great speech. It is in the day to day actions we take to improve the lives of those around us and others in the world we share.

It seems sometimes we place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to measure our accomplishments, wealth, social media “likes,” “followers,” or “shares.” We also look at what we have or don’t have.

If we do this as adults, think about the pressure children experience with all of the sources they have to ensure they get the approval rating they seek. When does the negative talk start?

How can we dial down these sources of frustration? What are other sources? These sources contribute to our negative self-talk. What can leaders do to increase positive sources of impact on lives daily?

  • Know the individuals who work with you. Greet them by name each day.
  • When an individual is absent and they return say, “I am glad to see you today; we missed you.” If you know why they were gone, be careful not to make a public statement as they may not want others to know.
  • Provide positive praise when achieved, do not fake anything.
  • Ask how you can help.

It is not easy to escape situations that can impact our lives negatively, but with knowledge of how to manage these situations, we can prevent the impact on our lives. We need to start teaching these strategies early in life as we know technology is introduced to our children at an early age and as the sources increase, the possibility of negatives can occur.

It is you, yes today and tomorrow, to help yourself and others bring positives each day to drown out the negatives!

It only takes a spark!

“The power just went out; I can’t see a thing.”

“Hang on, I know I have candles somewhere. Oh no, only one match! I hope we can get the candle going with one match. Then we can start the others.”

Moving to the country on our own as a young family took a little getting used to. Planning out what was needed in emergencies like power outages, snowstorms, ice, and so much more!

Listening to the evening news, we hear about fires out west. It only takes one spark to get a fire going, and it spreads fast. This message was loud and clear.

“Please take out the red hymnal books and turn to page 495 and the song Pass it on.” My favorite song! “It only takes a spark to get a fire going. That’s how it is with God’s love.”

Putting the spark in Leadership

I have utilized these messages about a spark to light my path igniting the fire in others for many years. It is what leaders do. At first, I did not recognize it as a leadership trait, but it is! The best kind of leadership trait. It is support, passion, authenticity, relationships, and knowledge-SPARK, all in one!

As leaders, we do not recognize things as part of a “formalized” plan of skills. We do what we feel natural in doing. However, with this being said, leaders are constantly learning and absorbing ways to improve. They pass this on to those they serve, lighting a fire to ignite success.

In my solution-focused approach to leadership, it is natural always to look for solutions. When you focus on solutions, positive mindsets are the results. Supporting those you serve as they work to provide solutions is a positive part of the day. Positive support naturally creates a positive work climate where everyone feels safe, supported, and confident.

Showing our passion for what we do is a contagious attribute. The love we have is something we do not want to hide. Providing and sharing this passion with our team helps to keep the spirit going. Opportunities to try new things, ideas and to enjoy what we do.

During our time of support and showing others the passion we have for what we do, it is in how we do and not always what we say. Being authentic in what you say and do brings authenticity to how we lead. Authentic leaders and teams bring truth, honesty, and the spirit of collaboration. These components secure loyalty and lift the team to reach higher levels. This weaves into the natural building of relationships as the level of trust has been established through the work of support, passion, and authenticity. These components are all needed to work together to begin to flicker the spark.

The last piece most feel is essential. Leaders think they need to have the most knowledge to lead. It is not the leader who holds the knowledge; it is within the team. Each member brings their knowledge, strengths, and talents to support the passion for achieving success. The leader knows how to help get the team to the end goal as the team works together.

Take away

  • Support- Provide your team with the support they need to accomplish the goals. Keep the positive mindset with always a positive solution-focused approach.
  • Passion- Share the love for what we do! Celebrate the tiny, small, and big wins daily. It is contagious! Spread it!
  • Authenticity- It is what we say and do that helps to inspire trust in our teams. As this is established, loyalty follows as well as a foundation for our team.
  • Relationships- Building positive relationships focused on solutions keeps mindsets positive and establishes collaboration to accomplish set goals.
  • Knowledge- Recognizing the knowledge and skills of the team further enhances the foundation for collaborative success. Leaders only need the understanding of how to help the team utilize their talents together to accomplish success.

It only takes a SPARK to get a fire going, and soon all those around will: warm up to its glowing, grow within its light, shine brighter and be thankful for the spark! Thank you for being part of the solution daily!

Back to School 🍎

Fall is my favorite season! It is the time of year where you begin to harvest the fruits of your labor as a farmer. Pumpkins, corn, apples, marshmallows and chocolate, scarecrows, and school supplies are the best! The sounds of the shoppers looking for just the right color of a folder, the best bookbag, and don’t forget picking out the first day of school outfit.

My school year in 2010 changed forever for me. I barely escaped losing my life and was left with lifelong deficits to remind me of the gift of life daily. Children felt impacts to their lives as schools shut down, mask mandates, isolation from others, and a change no one was prepared to handle in their school year 2020.

Now 2021-2022 school year is upon us, and the memories of the previous shutdowns with mask mandates are looming. Illinois has just passed on information that all K-12 students and staff will wear masks as they return to school, even those who have been vaccinated.

Safety is always the priority of all school leaders. Safety means many things when we discuss children—the safety of body, mind, and spirit. Science directs us in our decision-making regarding health and wellness. Children are fragile and essential to all of us. As a mother, grandmother, educator, and loving human, what we do to them concerns me always. They are not able to make decisions for their overall safety for themselves, and that task is left to us.

There seems to be a great debate regarding vaccinations, masks, and everything related to Covid-19. Why? It is no longer about science but politics. I am not taking a political side, but the children who can not decide on their own.

Would you please push the political views aside? Doctors, scientists, pediatric specialists, and psychologists need to be heard to provide the guidelines for children. What are the best ways to protect the body, mind, and spirit?

I have included an article about the importance of connecting. My previous post about the Artifact Bag also talks about the importance of connection. Let’s not let 2021-2022 be a repeat for our children. We can find creative ways to embrace things we cannot control with stuff we can by connecting better.

Would you please focus on the magical joy of teaching and learning by connecting at the levels we need after all we have been through with Covid-19? “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho

https://www.edutopia.org/article/rekindling-sense-connection-new-school-year?utm_content=linkpos1&utm_campaign=weekly-2021-07-28-A&utm_source=edu-newsletter&utm_medium=email

Reasonable Conversations

Do you find it challenging to have conversations with others? When I say challenging, do they start friendly, and before you know it escalates into an argument, disagreement, or worse? I can expect it maybe at holidays when all of the family crowds into small places and everyone is stressed, but not on a day-to-day basis.

It seems impossible to have a “reasonable” conversation in today’s society. Everyone has a strong opinion on many hot topics like the police, education, Covid-19, vaccinations, safety, racism, and patriotism. It does not matter what platform you select to use to bring up questions, talk about a news item from TV or newspaper, or mention one of the heated topics, and dialogue shuts down.

I have always encouraged others to ask questions, but I admit I am guilty when I feel strongly about a topic and the passion for defending my position. So what is the difference now?

We are no longer having discussions with all sides having the opportunity to provide their points of view and the other to do the same. We need to listen to the facts, gather the truth, restate the accurate findings to reach an agreement. Right now, emotions drive the conversations with no “reasonable” solution to the conversation as the frustration sets in and insults begin. In the “cancel culture” parts of society has created, it is worse than any bullying interventions I have mediated. In just one click, a message is sent, received, and shared by thousands targeting one individual with a label to crush them.

How will you help staff and students navigate through difficult conversations? Do we have debates anymore with content we can fact check for truth and not just opinions? Where do you check for facts and information? Do students know how to research for facts? Are we teaching how to have debates and to discuss different points of view?

We have been fighting bullying for decades in our society. I have lost a former student who moved to a different school to suicide over bullying. I am looking at these conversations through the lens of students growing in this society and how to manage all of this and wonder what we can do to help. Who has the power to change the conversation tones in our communities? I will start with me, and you start with you and maybe will reach the who that makes the change. It is a ripple effect, I believe. If we continue to say something, repeat it over and over, it becomes part of what we believe and think. I know this is true because, sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes______ ______. You finished it because it was part of a marketing campaign. “Just do it” you know this one as well! “Its the real thing.”

Thank you for being the solution daily where one voice, one ear, and one heart make a difference today.

Lifelong Learning

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”~William Buttle Yeats

The moment you take your first breath until you take your last, I believe we are learning. The level of our learning depends on what we desire to do. The limitations to learning are the ones we place on ourselves. Others may place barriers in our way; there may be challenges we encounter and obstacles to overcome, but our desire to learn moves us forward.

Lifelong learning is more than building skills for career development; it can be for self-improvement, self-fulfillment, maintaining a healthy brain lifestyle, expanding experiences by learning new things, languages or connecting more with others in groups.

Helping to keep lifelong learning as an essential part of our lives is to be the catalyst to keep it going. As a parent, you are the center of your child’s beginning of life. You supply the ingredients needed to spark the desire to learn, try new things, and explore. This continues as children grow, but more layers of support are added to provide additional sparks to ignite interests of other critical and creative ideas. Teachers are the core to the continued growth for learning and development.

As children and teachers head back to the classrooms, we must keep in mind the importance of establishing the desire to learn daily. Not to settle for just getting by, not doing just what you need to do, but to ask questions and more questions. Critical thinking, creative thoughts, innovation, curiosity, and imagination bring many ideas to learning.

How are you stretching your mind each day? Do you have suggestions on how to engage others in learning? What will you learn today?

My way, Your way, Our way….

I grew up really as an only child. My brother and sister are 16 and 17 years older than me, respectively. I have always said I was a gift from God to make sure someone could help this family.

My siblings, especially my sister, did lots of things with me. I think I was like a doll. The best adventure I can recall was going to see Elvis Presley in concert. I loved his music, but I was more fascinated by the way grown women were acting. So exciting to watch! He did it his way!

Watching my grandchildren play, I learned a great lesson. They span in age from three years, six years, and 13 years old. The two younger boys play together and are not always easy to handle. Their sister is quick to help settle disputes and monitor the playtime.

While vacationing at the beach, everyone found their place. Each one has a special interest in what they wanted to do. There were enough adults that each child had one to help them in whatever they wanted to do.

When they decided to play together after having their time, the conversations were so interesting.

“Hey, look, I found a purple-colored shell. Would you want it?”

“Yes, thanks!”

“Do you want me to help you find more shells?”

Fantastic how they were working together to collect shells. Now it lasted a short time as you know, attention spans do not last long and brothers, well are boys.

We took the shells back to the house to sort, identify and talk about them. We like to do art projects and make things; this is what they do with me. They each had a container to place their shells in, and all was good.

How does your team work together on projects? As a leader, do you begin with your way of approaching the task or situation? Are there opportunities to identify and sort out target points? Can individuals discuss freely and offer ideas?

In dealing with finding solutions, it is essential to have all voices heard and illustrate possible solutions. People need to see, hear, talk, and sometimes “touch”(move items) to understand the process.

If the solution is “my way,” the problem will stay. It stays because, most likely, I am the only one who believes in the solution. The same is true if the solution is “your way,” which most likely comes from the loudest one. It should be “our way,” providing ownership from all.

Think about the structures of your problem-solving teams. How do you handle issues that come up? Do you have a process to follow? Who is involved in making decisions and finding solutions?

Thank you for being the solution daily! It takes each of us working together focused on solutions.

Leadership Reset…No Way!

Watching the Open golf tournament with my husband and a player hits the ball, it makes it to the green, it rolls and hits the flag, denying a hole in one. What? Wait a minute. I call interference. That should count. My husband only laughs at me. It is no laughing matter; I am sure for the golfers or leaders when they realize they have made a big mistake.

Some mistakes we make are lessons we can learn from. I just posted a blog about helping students understand it is okay to make mistakes. However, when you make a mistake with character, there is no turning back.

When staff members do not trust their leaders, it causes big trouble! Let me restate that remark. When staff members have valid reasons that are proven not to trust their leaders, this is critical. When you reread these statements, significant differences between these two statements can be found. In some environments, you have toxic individuals who always look for trouble—explaining my first statement. Disruption in your building or organization will happen if these are not addressed. However, when a leader does not lead with character, this is critical to the structure and organization. Trust will be gone, and no growth will happen.

Some examples would be:

  • Leaders have taken credit for staff member’s work.
  • Throwing staff under the bus- blaming
  • Fabricating- Lying
  • Inauthenticity-changing when it seems like the best thing to do for themselves
  • Point out mistakes, belittle, criticize in front of others constantly
  • Playing favorites (everyone can see and hear the ones who get the most attention)
  • Ego driven leadership style
  • Lack of communication and transparency -Staff avoid conversations for fear of retaliation
  • Staff feel in the dark, neglected, and avoided

We are human, and we make mistakes. Recovery from breaking trust with staff is not a reset you can do. There are many things to do when you make a mistake staff will need to move forward. The first is to own it. Apologize for the mistake you made and explain the action steps you will take to correct and prevent it from happening again.

Leadership is like everything else in life. The more practice you have, the better it gets. To change anything, you need to start with, as Michael Jackson says, “The Man in the mirror.” To be politically correct, let’s say, person.

ABC’s to Leadership

LEADERSHIP

Writing each day is a blessing for me. I enjoy each day in finding ways to spark a fire of excitement, light a lesson of inspiration, shine enthusiasm on kindness, plant a seed of hope, and turn a problem into a solution one post at a time.

Leadership is daily, 365 days a year, and even 24 hours a day. We have thoughts, ideas, visions, dreams, and hopes throughout the day. No one sets out to be “the leader,” and many will tell you this if you ask. It just happens as they work, and a passion builds inside that can be explained by my ABCs.

  • Authentic learning, leading, and listening.
  • Building relationships daily.
  • Communicating and connecting first before correcting.
  • Daily inspiration for all, lifting spirits each day.
  • Encouraging others and engaging as we work.
  • Fueling others with energy for success. (maybe chocolate and lots of snacks! I find these to work best!)
  • Gardening throughout the day, planting seeds for growth, and maybe pulling a few weeds.
  • Heart full of kindness, celebrating birthdays and good deeds. (Always keep cards of all kinds and small gifts in case you need them.)
  • Inviting feedback and questions.
  • Joining in collaboration, diversity, and teams.
  • Keeping an open mind.
  • Leading by example. (Model for others what you expect to see.)
  • Motivating others. (It is the small things you do that count.)
  • Never giving up, especially on you! (Special dedication to one of my students who thanked me for not giving up on him. He was shot and killed at the age of 19.)
  • Open door policies!
  • Praise for jobs well done!
  • Quick to put others first, especially kids.
  • Recognizing problems, focusing on solutions.
  • Shared leadership, roles, and responsibilities. (Teach everyone how to do your job, you never know when you will not be there!) -Thanks Robin
  • Time to listen, learn and explain.
  • Understanding (Everything!)
  • Validation! Others, feelings, viewpoints- You do not have to agree but validate them.
  • Welcoming environment, friendly, safe, opinions can be shared.
  • Xceed expectations when limits are placed on you and expectations are low.
  • Your purpose-the why you do what you do!
  • Zest to be the best!

Decision Making takes skills

Driving can be so peaceful in the country—so many beautiful things to look at. What is that in the road? A rabbit! It better move. It is in the way. A decision, a choice must be made before it is too late.

The rabbit has made it more than halfway across the road to the other side. Just keep going. My car is almost there. Then a quick turn and my foot on the brake, the rabbit went back from where he left. Who saw that coming? What kind of decision was that?

Making decisions takes a great deal of skill. Leaders are faced with high pressure, deadlines, complex situations, unexpected circumstances, and the unbelievable at times. To make decisions, a strategy supported by skills is a need and quality for every leader.

Tips for making decisions

  • Take a breath of fresh air, and don’t let the stress get to you! Emotions should not be part of decision-making.
  • Time! If you do not have to respond immediately, wait!
  • Focus on solutions. Weigh the pros and cons.
  • Review goals and values. Compare solutions to these.
  • Consider all possibilities.
  • Talk, discuss, and question.
  • Rethink your options.
  • Make your decision.

The more you practice quality strategies in making decisions, the better you become at decision making. It doesn’t always work out that you have the time to go through all of the tips, but if you are solid in your beliefs, goals, and values, the more straightforward it becomes.

Strategies for Decison Making

  • What is your decision?
  • What information have you gathered to support it?
  • What are alternatives that could be utilized?
  • What evidence do you have to support your decision?
  • How does the decision you propose compare to alternatives?
  • Now apply your decision with action steps
  • Finally, analyze the decision

Decisions are best made when you can take the time with your team to present several different ideas to look at all views. There are times when as the leader, you have to make snap decisions. In the case of the rabbit, making a snap decision was based on the actions of others. The rabbit was in control of the situation. The decision was made, steps were taken, and the rabbit made it to the other side of the road.

How do you make decisions? Do you provide opportunities for others to be involved? Do you find it easy or difficult when making decisions?

Looking forward to more discussions on decision-making as we move forward in our leadership. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.