Our or my?

Pet peeve alert.

Principals, how do you refer to the school at which you work? Or the staff with whom you work?

My school or our school? My teachers or our teachers?

Teachers, how do you refer to your classroom? My classroom or our classroom?

We have a couple of good phrases in our district, and in our schools. For example, #togetherweRfife is our district’s main hashtag. The capital R stands for relationships. This idea is very ‘our’ vs. ‘my’. At our middle school, they talk a lot about “we’re all in this together”. We, together.

Working together in our classroom!

Do you have a reaction when a principal says, “I was working with my teachers at my school last week.”

I do. There seems something patriarchal, some big fat line between a principal and teachers with that statement. My teachers.

“Last week our amazing educators were working on mastery experiences in classrooms. We have learned that mastery experiences are the best way to develop a collective sense of efficacy. It was wonderful work that will have a huge impact on our kids.”

That sounds and feels better. At least it does to me.

Unlearn anything lately?

“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” (Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani)

SLMS students at a recent school board meeting

Thinking about our students and the world and time ahead for them. Revisited the great book by Spencer and Juiliani, with that awesome quote above. Reminds me of another idea. Teaching doesn’t automatically mean taught. Listening isn’t learning. And once learned…sometimes it needs to be unlearned and relearned. Communication and transportation, for example. Getting items from the store. Virtually anything, given the pace of change. What was learned 2o years ago…needs to be unlearned and relearned in many cases. I used to use the rotary phone to call my friend Greg every night to do our algebra homework. Kids now use Google Hangouts to virtually meet, share, discuss, and learn. In junior high, I used to use the payphone, with a quarter, to call my parents, let the phone ring twice, and hangup, so they would come pick me up from wrestling practice. Now…my kids text.

What have you unlearned and relearned lately? I bet more than you imagine!

The power of a great principal.

Sitting at home, enjoying the last day of vacation, I began to ponder the topic for my Monday morning blogpost. As usual, I didn’t have a great idea right off the bat. But as usual, something popped up that just smacked me in the head. And the smacking this time came from the majority of our principals, as they were sending out their weekly messages to staff and parents. I was overwhelmed by their thoughtful, insightful, and motivational writing; gearing everybody up for the return to school.

I thought I’d share some of their words.

The principal at Endeavour Intermediate School, grades 2-5, is Amy Mittelstaedt. Amy’s message to her staff is here. She wrote beautifully about opportunity. She talks about what she is reading and what she is learning as a result of her reading. Powerful message and powerful professional learning modeling!

Amy and David, the administrators at Endeavour!

“The passage I’m sharing with you is something that resonated with me and I thought that I would share as I am reflecting, learning and growing in my professional and personal goal setting for the upcoming 2020 year.

The following is from the book, (Relentless, 2019, p. 32, Author, Hamish Brewer).

“You get to choose your attitude. You own it. Your attitude is your responsibility –no one else’s. Before you go through the doors of your school each morning, think about the opportunity that you have each and every day — the reason why you wanted to be a leader and educator. If you are not thinking about the opportunity, then you are focused on the obligation of a j-o-b, and that is where average lives. If you are leading and teaching for opportunity, you are on fire!”

Mark Beddes is the principal at Surprise Lake Middle School. Mark and his staff are currently occupying half of a school, as their new school is being built right next to the old one. Sounds like a nightmare, middle school kids? Tight quarters? Not at SLMS. Not with Mark and the SLMS Team. They are rockstars. Here’s part of why. Check out Mark’s message to the staff. Again, models his reading and shares! Podcasts, fellow bloggers, avid twitter user. Wow! In his words to his staff, Mark shares and models like crazy!

“Here are some of my favorites I have come across. If you love learning about our profession check out this great article on 2019 education research highlights. If you read just one of the articles linked in here, you won’t regret it! If you prefer a little more personal reflective piece about how education has changed in the last decade, check out this great blog from Katie Martin. If quotes are your thing, check out this post by George Couros. Or, maybe you had a tough break and you just can’t get your mind straight. I know some have had to deal with personal loss, sickness, family issues, or surgeries. This article is for you.”

Mark Beddes, with one of his many fans!

At our high school, we are fortunate to have Brandon Bakke. The link on Brandon’s name goes to the school Twitter account, because I think Brandon and his team did a brilliant thing. They’ve shared access to that account with a number of people, because a high school always has millions of things going on, and one person can’t be at everything. Although Brandon sure seems to try. Brandon is an absolute marvel as a leader. Clear, decisive, supportive, and always on the go. He is that which successful high schools need. A high school person. He lives, loves, and breathes high school. And he knows he needs to take breather every so often. And he did this last break…and shared that idea with his staff. A hugely important message to all teachers, including high school teachers.

Brandon Bakke, out and about with kids. Like he is everyday, all the time!

The final principal I’m going to share in this particular blogpost, in the interest of time and space, is Mark Robinson. Mark is the principal at our junior high school. In fact, he’s the principal that took over for me when I moved to the district office. Mark is doing more, different, and better things with the staff and kids than I did. And I couldn’t be more proud of him. Check out this beautiful piece of writing to welcome back his staff. Another leader sharing his learning. Mark is searingly honest, which serves his staff so well. Here’s part of that honesty.

“I also find myself reading any and everything about lessons we’re learning about child development… amount of screen time… how to help teach resilience… how to treat all moments with your kids as special… I warned you. I’ve been a bit wistful.

One of the reasons I find myself enjoying reading is the discomfort difficult discourse creates. When we are honest with ourselves and each other, we create opportunities for growth. Don’t we ask that of our students in the moments we ask them to learn something new or different? For educators, examples include deciding that we will read a book even if it’s not our jam. We will try that new instructional practice even though it’s different from those we have mastered. We will work on tasks that are outside of our comfort zone because we know the act may be important. We will decide NOT to write off that student who has perpetually made our professional life difficult these past few weeks. We will try new things.”


Mark and Chris, monster leaders!

It’s hard to imagine a great school without a great principal. And our good fortune is that we don’t have to imagine. We’ve got ’em.

Thanks all. Our kids’ lives are so much richer because of you.