Category: Solution-Focused Leadership

“Art-full-heart”

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”-unknown.

When dealing with trauma, difficult stress, and many unknowns, we need to find ways to reduce these levels from harming our health. Many are providing ideas for self-help, but one of the universal ways to help all ages is through art.

Art is an expression of our emotions or a way to release the tensions we have. Everyone is an artist! It is connecting with something you love to do! Like baking, sewing, painting, drawing, construction, being a good friend, solving puzzles, playing an instrument, and my list could go on!

Experiencing art produced by someone else is an opportunity to experience life through their lens, explore their time, learn about their culture and history. Art provides unlimited access to learning if we open our hearts, minds, and imagination.

One of the first things eliminated during educational budget cuts is the art programs. It is encouraging to see more creativity, engagement, and opportunities for expression be included in the offerings for children. Children need hands-on learning with ways to be able to express themselves.

Take away thoughts

  • No matter what organization you are in, try this activity to create an “Art-full-heart” to support you, me, us!

Give each staff member or student a piece of paper. (Before you give out the papers decide where this big heart will be displayed. You will have an outline of the heart. Inside the heart will be what the individuals design. You will then place them inside the heart.) at the top of the display will be your title or message. You can use my suggestion above or one you prefer.

Shape your paper to fit inside your heart to equal the number of people making one. The instructions for making the design can be this:

As we begin to work together, we still have Covid-19 and the variant causing health issues. The paper you have provides you with an opportunity to send a message to others on how to__________during this time. Use any prompt you want to help share a message you want and to help others in need.

This becomes more than an art lesson. It is so much more. It is about the history of the pandemic, social and climate changes, power struggles, and dealing with mental health needs.

We have used art (painting, drawing, poems, and other forms) as ways students can open up about mental health suicide, drugs, alcohol, and more. It is therapeutic for all involved.

There are many ways to support others through the use of art! I hope you try out this and other ways to boost support, understanding, and encouragement. Helping to make mental health needs a priority and not something to hide helps everyone.

Decisions-How do they look?

When we make decisions, do you think about how they impact your health? Depending on your position and the level of decisions you make, it is not just the impact on yourself at risk.

Leaders have to lead. Decisions have to be made. What are the ways, strategies, and thoughts in decision-making? It is easy to evaluate after a decision has been made and speak up, saying, I would have…..

Thoughts? When I die, I think I will look like me.

Motivation-Validation

Monday’s can be a day measured differently for many. It is based on the life experiences of the weekend, the feelings they have for where they are, expectations, mindsets, and the culture.

Life journeys are different for each of us. Many things are not visible and are hard to detect. It takes effort to work on really getting to know someone else. Sometimes individuals will tell you just what you want to hear to get out of the situation.

Making connections with others is vital in an organization, workplace, and especially a school. No matter the age or position, individuals want to be seen, heard, and validated.

Have you ever been asked to come to your boss’s office to discuss a private issue and then when you arrive they are not there? A teacher looks at you and does not know your name? A group of co-workers is gathered talking about a great book they have all decided to read, but you have never heard about it?

Many things send signals to others that we do not value them. Individuals will take this information and store it. Over time incidents like these add up and devalued them to the point where they no longer work at the level of their potential. In children, this can be a detrimental factor in the trajectory of their development. We know in adults and others this can lead to enhance already existing mental health issues or bring about onsets of anxiety and depression.

Make Monday’s different for others. Let’s make every day different, but we will start today! I had some fantastic people who would join in my silly stuff sometimes, and it made days fun! Our technology department would play Happy Birthday with actual names to people over phones speakers, do pictures on your computer screens to brighten your day when you came in to start your day, and some funny cat jokes with pictures on occasion. Thanks, Scott and Alan!

Check out this video on how this school strategically looked at how to make sure adults were connecting with all students. You can do things similar to this with staff through fun boards, chats, and contests. https://www.edutopia.org/video/making-sure-each-child-known

Be the solution daily in helping others know their value! Thank you for helping choose to be the solution!

Stepping stones and stumbling blocks

“Hi Brenda, glad you could be here today for this interview. You have been in your previous district for a long time. I see it is your hometown. Why move? Are you going to use this as just a stepping stone in your career?”

Great question. I would ask the same question in your position. My career speaks for itself. I am a dedicated employee; I wouldn’t say I like to make changes. I believe consistency in education is essential. I wouldn’t say I like the thoughts of moving people around, which I know this district has done. If I am hired for this principal position, I would ask not to be moved. It takes at least three years to make significant changes for positive growth.

I am making a move now because I am ready for a principal position. I come from a small district, and movement is limited. I have served as an Assistant Principal for the past four years and am ready for new experiences. I plan to retire from this district if I am hired.

As a leader, you often need to ask questions to have the right people in the right places. In this situation, we both wanted to make sure our points were made but for different reasons. The employer wanted to avoid stepping stones, and I tried to avoid stumbling blocks.

Stepping stones are a natural part of moving up the professional ladder. Everyone wants to advance, and when you reach a level with nowhere else to go, you may begin to look for something else. It is natural for people to want to continue to grow. Keep this in mind as you provide employees with opportunities to grow, learn, demonstrate and earn recognitions.

I wanted to avoid being placed in positions that would be a stumbling block, preventing me from accomplishing goals in serving others. It isn’t easy to achieve goals when stumbling blocks are positioned in pathways.

Take a moment a review your current team and the stumbling blocks in place. Are there thoughts, procedures, lack of resources, or others to prevent growth? How do we respond to stumbling blocks?

Recently, my daughter told me they start school in one week, and several of the new hires have quit. Is this considered a stepping stone issue or a stumbling block issue?

Do you place stumbling blocks in place? We could do this without realizing it. Strong beliefs about a topic without allowing debate and listening to the other side can cause an obstruction.

If we can go back to my opening interview, I can tell you I did get the job as principal in the new district. Remember I asked not to be moved? I was moved at the end of the first year to another building to be principal. It was middle school! The previous principal took a job in another district. Was it a stepping stone or a stumbling block? It depends on who’s lens you look through.

Oh, by the way, I never left the district that hired me. Things may have changed over the years, but I never left them. I stand by my beliefs and my word.

Stepping stones are important as long as no one is hurt along the way. Stumbling blocks are part of the journey. Do not let these prevent you from moving forward to accomplish your goals.

Unfamiliar territory? Consult the compass

When traveling in unfamiliar territory, explorers frequently consult their compasses to ensure they have not lost their way or are not headed in a direction away from their destination.

The value of a compass is that it defines one direction—north. All other directions can be determined and selected or rejected based on this knowledge. Explores map out their plans and directions, but change due to external conditions.

As educators, we also need to consult our professional compass. Rather than showing north, our compass needs to point directly at helping students learn. External and internal conditions place changes on directions, but we must always consult before proceeding.

Every issue, every decision, and expenditure of an organizational resource—human or financial—must be judged on its consistency with the point of our compass.

If we are clear and consistent in our pursuit and support of student learning, we can monitor our direction and adjust our course with relative ease. Like explorers, we need to consult our compass and change our course accordingly frequently.

However, our compass is not something we can carry in our pockets. We must keep it in our hearts and mind. Our love for “what” we do always explains our “why.” The destination we desire is not for one traveler, but all, and some arrive at different times along the journey.

As the ships are preparing and the travelers arrive, let us not forget the importance of the compass in helping us to maintain the direction forward to success. It does not matter the length of the journey, only the quality and the arrival to the destination.

Action Steps

  • Prepare for travelers
  • Organize materials
  • Establish goals
  • Understand directional path
  • Identify resources for support
  • Make modifications
  • Monitor progress
  • Evaluate
  • Celebrate

Along the journey, it is all-important to monitor, evaluate, modify, support and celebrate (even small wins) along the way to the final destination.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths….”         Walt Disney

 

Blame Game

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior.” Ephesians 4:31

Blaming others is a way of putting people down, so naturally, it is also a great way to push people instead away! Placing blame creates a dangerous environment where there is no trust. Everyone feels the stress and can’t relax as they always feel judged and never valued. Pointing fingers but never solving issues, but creating more.

People are busy; it seems as I look around. Everyone is going somewhere, have a device in their hand, or talking to someone. It is a fast-paced race we are all running!

I take time to try to reflect on things, looking for solutions, and sometimes think out loud. Are you able to hold people accountable? Do you hold yourself accountable? The art of making others responsible for all of the difficulties that happen is something we get a daily dose of when we: turn on the TV, read the newspaper, attend an event, or go anywhere in society. You can find examples everywhere.

My thought for you to ponder today is this: Is this culture of blame helpful with the issues we face today?

If your life is going well, do you take credit for it or share it with others? I am thankful for all of the people who believed in me, those who gave me opportunities, others who placed their trust in me, and all who continue to support me. Many have helped me, guided me, and allowed me to make mistakes. It is all of this and them that make me who I am today.

Let’s be the solution daily as we shift the blame game into a blessed one. Make it a great day, the choice is always yours to make.

Revisit, Reevaluate, and Reimagine

August is here and is always a reminder to me of a new school year. A time when leaders and teachers begin to revisit schedules, procedures, materials, and expectations.

Looking over all of these things, we reevaluate what was accomplished in the previous year. Where are we currently with our goals? Where do we want to be? How will we get to where we want to be? What are the things we want to accomplish? What do I want to accomplish? What are the talents of our team? What are the gifts I bring? What role can I play?

The word of the year seems to be reimagined. Reimagine is to imagine something again to form anew or to rethink it. It is not a brand new something but an original creation with a new interpretation. When I think of imagining, I think about creativity. What are the creative solutions we have for the unexpected issues of the day?

Covid-19 brought us a wave of unexpected issues. Creativity was used to respond quickly. There was no stone left unturned as it hit every aspect of life. It was up to all leaders to reimagine how to serve all in a new way.

Societal changes occurred, and many other issues sparked additional waves throughout our world, bringing loss, grief, tension, controversy, fear, and isolation. It is our abilities, availability, knowledge, support, and dedication that can make a difference in the lives we touch, reaching beyond whatever we can reimagine.

Decide the answers to the questions before we begin a new year. (What) gifts do you bring to the team and the role you will play. (Who) will you help support in the group? (How) will you continue to grow and help others grow? The (Why) is the essential question and answer. It is (Why) we do all we do each day to serve others. At the end (When) the results of our efforts are provided, it is still the (Why) that supplies the best reply.

Thank you for being the solution daily and being the (why) to so many. It is the importance of what we do every day to add up to all the differences in the lives of others.

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

Flip the switch

Each morning we flip a switch at some point in our routine. We turn off the alarm, flipping the light on, the coffee pot, the microwave, blender, or something. Why not flip the switch of our focus to gratitude.

Gratefulness is the best reminder to focus on each day. Our days are filled full, hectic, chaotic at times, and exhausting. There are moments, points of time where we can reflect with gratitude. Our team needs to hear appreciation, see our support and encouragement. As we are visible in our working environment, we can see and listen to who needs us.

It can be easy to fall into a habit of finding faults, pointing out problems and negatives. Many times things happen we have no control over. It is during these most difficult times; we see opportunities to be grateful. Experiences and relationships can be transformed by reflecting on gratitude.

Gratitude is one of those habits you want to have as an individual. The funny thing is when you begin focusing on the things you are grateful for; you lose sight of the things you think you lack. Life is hard; I do not care who you are. It is for everyone. No one can escape illnesses, heartaches, death, and loss. Everyone, however, can have gratitude.

I don’t know your story; you do not know mine, we do not know theirs, but we are grateful to know we can share a part of the story with each other. The world is shouting right now, at least in our neighborhood, about all of the problems. I am grateful for all who choose to be part of the solution daily because tomorrow will be better than today when we flip the switch to focus on gratitude, positive thinking, solution-focused leadership, and sharing our stories together.

Turning Gears into Action

One of my first posts was about gears. I made this reference as it was part of the original writing in my book. I did not know everything I needed to know about publishing a book. So even though my gears were turning, I did not have all of the ones I needed to move forward successfully. A rewrite was done, and it will be coming out soon I hope.

The goal I have is to help other leaders in their journeys of success. I will share all of my information, ideas, practices, actions, and everything I have with those who want to continue to be the solution daily for those they serve. Today I want to revisit the thought of gears as you begin to develop an action plan to address your planned improvements.

I utilized my conversations with my husband to talk about the motors he worked on for companies and local farmers, as they compare to the work in education. The importance of these motors for the work being done is critical to the whole process. If one gear is not working, damage can happen, and work is stopped. A farmers’ work depends on the weather conditions; it is critical to get back to work when the weather is good. In education, we weather all of the storms that come our way.

In our educational system, we have gears as well that are critical to the work we do. I divided the gears into the following:

  • Leadership
  • Instruction
  • Curriculum
  • Assessments
  • Professional Learning/Collaboration
  • Culture/Climate
  • Communication
  • Community/Partnerships
  • Systems/Program Evaluation

Gears are connected to a shaft. This cylinder shaped piece of rotating machine element, is used to transmit power from one part to another, or from a machine which produces power to a machine which absorbs power. Compare this to your organization.

Gears are the identified areas of focus. Our focused areas are those in need of attention to produce the successful energy we need. Often my husband has spent time completing a rewind of motors because they have burnt up and need an overhaul. Sometimes they are beyond repair and are scrapped out. New motors are purchased if it is cheaper to do this than to fix the motor.

In education, it seems at times we have situations or things that are beyond repair. However, we cannot scrap them out and purchase new things. We have to make adjustments to try to make it work. I can think of textbooks, programs and curriculum. We spend a great deal of money, time, and energy in the selection of these materials. Our budgets do not allow us to throw things out. However, when new shiny things are the buzz, we through out and turn our attention to the new. Examples could be: Whole Language, Touch Math, Cursive Writing, Phonics, Sight Words and more.

We intend that we will produce enough energy our students will absorb the learning. However, it is not the energy from the materials and tools but those teaching our students producing the energy. It is when our students are engaged and have ownership in their learning the energy sparks.

The shaft is our mission as a foundation. It is what we are doing defined by our vision. Our vision is inspirational and connects emotionally with what we do. A well-oiled, lubricated, or greased machine keeps it turning. This is our values and beliefs. Working together and turning in the right direction is fueled by families, communities, and stakeholders. We have focused leaders, collaborating staff, engaged families, supportive community, and stakeholders, producing achieving students as outcomes are the results.

As you begin your work, identify your focus areas. Which gears do you have in your plan? What do you think at first glance needs your attention first? Be careful not to burn out all of your bags and destroy your shaft. Some things are not repairable, and we do not have enough time to repair them all. We cannot afford to throw anything out.

Counting on you to be the solution for those you serve today as they will serve tomorrow!