Principals-How Mindful Are You?

My school counselor asked me in the late spring if she could work with our school staff and present at some staff meetings on mindfulness.  I was happy to oblige and provide some small windows of time for her to present, not really giving a lot of thought as to what mindfulness meant to me.  Additionally, in my classroom visits, I’ve seen teachers using mindfulness activities with students that they’ve learned from the school counselor, and again, I’ve been appreciative of that work and the benefits it has for students but I did not think of my own mindfulness.

If you’re a school principal, you probably have days that looks like this:

1. (Morning) Arrive at school and put out small fires: substitutes/absent staff, bus issues, E-mail
2. (Midday) Classroom observations, phone calls, meetings, office drop-ins
3. (Evening) School committee meetings, school functions, E-mail, paperwork, projects

Shared via: www.uhs.umich.edu
Shared via: http://www.uhs.umich.edu

I’m not complaining about the above schedule, primarily because I love my job and I feel that I have found the level of balance I need within my work and personal life.  I’ve written about the demands of the principalship and also about what work life balance means to each of us, or should mean to each of us and how we should find the balance that works best in our daily lives. I also know that the schedule (list) above is abbreviated, not including about another 50-100 things that happen in a day.  I’m in my 18th year as a principal, so you see, I’m accustomed to what happens in most days, and honestly, I’m pretty used to it.

Interesting thing though, and that is my prior lack of attention to my own mindfulness, or level of mindfulness.  I pride myself on how much I get done, and those things I am able to accomplish for the benefit of students and staff, yet, as I sat in the session my school counselor did on mindfulness, I began to think about my own level of mindfulness. It also made me wonder if you thought about yours as well!  After all, if you are getting lots done, and your school is doing well, you must have a great level of mindfulness right?  Hmm…maybe not.

Shared via: www.placeofserenity.co.uk
Shared via: http://www.placeofserenity.co.uk

As defined on http://mindfulnet.org, “Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives.” I’m sure many of us principals would say that we are mindful because we manage so many things for so many people, including ourselves.  After all, how could you do all that if you are not paying attention? Yet, the definition of mindfulness is really focused on being aware of the moment you are in.  It is not thinking about the past, and it is not thinking about the future, but really, focusing on the “here and now” and the moment you are in.

My guess is that you’re starting to think the same thing I started thinking…”How mindful am I really being?  Am I really in tune with my own mindfulness, or, am I managing multiple things in my head all the time?”  Mindfulnet.org points out the following:

It [mindfulness] will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body. It helps us recognize and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.

Shared via medium.com
Shared via medium.com

This exercise in starting to think about my own mindfulness, and hopefully helping you think about yours, has been eye-opening.  It has made me think about the many times during my day when perhaps, although I thought I was being helpful or solving problems, or looking at a particular situation, I was probably not as mindful as I could or should have been.  It also made me think about times outside of school, and despite enjoying my “off work” time, was I truly present and mindful?  Was I in the moment with family and friends?  Have you been mindful and truly in the moment as well?

I’m not thinking that I am going to become a principal turned mindfulness guru overnight, but what I do know is that for us principals, we need to be “in the moment” to best help ourselves and our school communities.  A small amount of time each day may result in improved problem solving, better relationships, and an overall quality of life.  So, I’m going to work on my level of mindfulness a little each day, and now that you may be thinking and evaluating your own level of mindfulness, here are a few things you can do…good luck!

Shared via www.health.harvard.edu
Shared via http://www.health.harvard.edu

Student Engagement: A Path to Learning

This summer I was fortunate to be selected as a presenter at NAESP 2016 in National Harbor, Maryland on student engagement as a means to increase student learning. Having been in education now for 23 years, and having seen numerous initiatives and fads come and go, I feel as though student engagement is a mindset and a focus that is perennial to good teaching.

Shared from: ww2.kqed.org
Shared from: ww2.kqed.org

Over the past seven years, my current position of principal at Fiske Elementary School in Lexington, Massachusetts has allowed me to continue working with staff and students in ways that promote engagement across the school setting. This, in part, has helped us continue to promote high levels of learning in an already high performing school.

I’m well aware of pedagogy and teaching practices that support learning, having been a classroom teacher and an administrator that focused on and still focuses on well developed lessons, appropriate content and objectives, developmentally appropriate teaching, etc. However, even if all of the above things are in place, if students are disengaged, you will not enter into any significant learning.

So what can schools do to promote student engagement during an era of accountability and heavy data use?  There is really no “silver bullet” to student engagement, however, there are simple and thoughtful things schools can do that will promote engagement and support learning.

Most importantly, relationships should be at the forefront.  James Comer noted that “No significant learning happens without a significant relationship.” It is imperative that the belief about forming relationships permeates your school.  That means teacher to student, administrator to student, teacher to teacher and administrator to teacher.

This does not happen overnight…relationships are cultivated over time and built on trust, respect, and honesty.  I’ve always known the importance of these relationships, however, I feel that over the past several years, I’ve worked to place an even heavier emphasis on them for the benefit of students.

Shared via unece.org
Shared via unece.org

It is crucial that teachers quickly build relationships with students and get to know them as learners and as individuals.  It is also important for administrators to know the students in their school.  I work to try and know every single student in my school.  It is a challenge with almost 500 students, but I feel that it is important to have connections with them and to know about them as much as possible.  I also work hard to know my staff as well.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m best friends with them, however, it means that I know about them as people, celebrating their successes, their challenges, and helping them meet the needs of students.

As we build relationships, we do some of the following activities to promote engagement for all stakeholders in our school:

  • Highlight and promote every student in the school over the course of the year through our “Student of the Week” program.

  • Promote positivity and gratitude with staff through our Golden Owl Award, Give a WHOOT Grams and Thankful Thursdays.

  • Use a student Twitter center as one means to give students voice, share positive information about school and model appropriate social media use.

  • Deliver positive messages to staff and students related to #celebratemonday, valuing students as individuals, and valuing contributions made by both staff and students.

  • Clearly identify expected behaviors and work to support those expectations through our school wide system of PBIS which includes student-administrator lunches, preferred assembly seating and positive phone calls home.

These are just a handful of things we do to promote student engagement.  Our hope is that by working to find ways to engage ALL students, we will capitalize on their level of connectedness to promote and support greater levels of learning.

Shared via slashgear.com
Shared via slashgear.com

Did something here catch your eye?  Want to know more about a specific way we promote student engagement?  You can view my presentation from NAESP2016 at this link: https://goo.gl/iDBAaE , E-mail me at tmartellone@lexingtonma.org  or connect with me on Twitter @tommartellone.  

 

Principal Support: Staying Connected to Teachers

This past week, I was very busy working across many projects to get our school ready for opening day on August 30th.  It wasn’t unlike any other week I have had prior to a school opening.  Hallways had multiple pieces of furniture in them, supplies were being unpacked, students were being registered, and the usual pre-opening of school business was taking place.  As a matter of fact, after being a principal for 18 years, I’d say that the week was mostly quite familiar.

As I walked through the halls, I stuck my head into one teacher’s classroom to check in and see how things were going.  This particular teacher was new to my school and district the year prior, and despite my wanting to keep teachers where they were, she was reassigned to teach first grade, which meant that she inherited a new room and many materials. As I walked into the room and took a quick survey of everything, the teacher said to me, “You don’t like where my word wall is do you?” We both laughed, as she quickly had gotten to know me and knew that I would give some gentle feedback about the word wall and its placement.  Of course, I shared that I thought the word wall was covering up some valuable “real estate” in the classroom (a 4×4 whiteboard near a small group instructional area) and the teacher agreed, also sharing that she was somewhat stuck with all of the “stuff” in the room and how to arrange it.

Shared from teacherpop.org
Shared from teacherpop.org

I offered to help, saying that I had some thoughts about how she might maximize space in the room and have some varied areas that would support different types of learners and curriculum. I was happy to stay in the classroom for a while and I told the teacher that I thought it would take about 20 minutes.  She was receptive to my help and suggestions and noted that she didn’t want to take me away from my work, which I said wasn’t too much.  I somewhat secretly stretched the truth here….I was buried in work, however, I do love helping teachers and being connected to their classrooms.  And not to be a martyr, but I’d always stop to help a teacher and do my other work later, after all, my job is to support and provide great conditions for teaching and learning.

We went about the room, me making suggestions and visualizing how the room could be arranged, and then both of us moving furniture and placing it around the room to create instructional and learning areas for students.  Each time we’d move some furniture, I’d check in with the teacher to see what she thought of the placement and if she thought it would be conducive to students learning and her teaching.  There were some suggestions that were duds, but most were good and fortunately, she really liked the ideas I had (she seemed to be honest) and I really loved helping set up the classroom.

My goal has always been to stay connected to teachers and kids as an administrator.  It is easy to get pulled away and become detached from what happens or from what the job really entails.  I was actually flattered that the teacher was willing to have me help and I also really enjoyed thinking about how to maximize the spaces around the classroom for learning.  Don’t get me wrong, this teacher was and is very capable and would have gotten the room sorted out and done a fine job.  

Shared from www.chosenchildtx.org/
Shared from http://www.chosenchildtx.org/

I was lucky that she was open to my ideas and that she wanted to include me in the work.  After a short time (more like 45 minutes or so) we got her room situated to the point where things were in place and she was able to picture what teaching and learning would happen where.  I left to go back to the office to work for a while and when I checked in later, she was “unstuck” and busy putting things in place and preparing for students.

My take aways from my classroom help that day were as follows:

  • Always stay connected to your teachers and students. They are your network and your teachers carry out the heavy lifting of your school. You can not risk not working side by side with them.

  • Be willing to offer help, even when your plate is full.  A small gesture goes a long way and you’ll find a place later to get your work finished.

  • Not every suggestion is a great one.  I made some suggestions that were not the best for the teacher and we navigated changes.  Be open to feedback and be flexible.

  • Be purposeful in everything you do.  I was careful as to what I recommended because I wanted to help the teacher maximize space for the sake of student learning.

  • Love what you do!  I still love setting up a classroom and being a teacher, even though I am a principal and lead a school.  I’ll never forget the joy of creating a great classroom experience for students.

I am so thankful that my teacher welcomed me into her room, trusted me enough to know what I’d give constructive feedback on, and then let me be part of setting up her classroom.  I know that she was appreciative of the help, but honestly, I was the one who was most appreciative for her helping me stay connected! It’s always this type of work that makes me love my job and realize the importance of what I do each and every day. For that, I am extremely grateful.

It’s a Personal Thing…Work-Life Balance

Quite a few years ago, my aunt once told me, “Tommy, everyone has free agency.” Basically, that means that everyone has the ability to make decisions for themselves, which may or may not best meet their needs, however, they ultimately make the decision.

I share this because I hear a lot about “work-life” balance, and people seem quick to impose what they believe should be someone else’s level of balance. However, work-life balance is personal, and what one person finds balance in, another may not, however, each person has his or her own free agency to make that decision.

Shared via angeliquepanagos.com
Shared via angeliquepanagos.com

Last month, I went on vacation after attending two conferences.  By the time vacation was done, and after those two conferences, I was gone from my house for almost 3 weeks.  While I absolutely love being home in my house, puttering and working on various projects, I really do thrive most when I am working.  We got home from vacation on Friday evening, and the next morning early, I found myself at work for just a short bit, checking in on things.  That was followed up with having the rest of the month “off” for vacation, however, I went in to work and worked at home almost every day. Sounds crazy, right?  Not so much…and I think I have great work-life balance…for me.

You see, even though I worked many days during my month of vacation (I worked almost 3 out of 4 weeks), I still did many other things, like communicate with family and friends, spend time with my partner, visit with my mother, work on my genealogy research, work outside in my yard, go to the movies, etc.  I also won’t be a martyr and complain in a month that I didn’t get to take all my vacation time away from work.  That’s because for me, I derive a significant amount of pleasure out of working.  And I still find time to do all the other things I enjoy and need to get done!  My work-life balance works well for me, as part of my free agency to choose how I allocate my time.

Now, I don’t assume that my level of work life balance is the same as someone else’s either. I have colleagues that have young children, elderly parents, graduate school, etc. and based on their personal situation, they may need more time away from work as part of their life demands and free agency related to how they spend their time.  And that’s great.  It’s great that they get to spend their time in ways that works for them and feels good to them.  Because I recognize this, I don’t comment to them when they tell me how long they were on vacation, or the fact that they don’t bring work home, etc. because I understand that everyone’s needs are different.

Although I appreciate when people say, “You really need to take time off to recharge so you won’t be wore down when school starts”, I also want to ask them, “What makes you think that being here and working won’t recharge me and help me be more ready?” Again, people make the assumption that because they have a particular need for time away from work, that anyone who doesn’t do the same does not have work-life balance.

Quite simply, work-life balance is created when each of us uses “free agency” to spend our time in ways that meet our own personal and professional needs.  This will always look different for everyone, and we must be cognizant to not make an assumption that because someone works a lot or appears to work less, that there is a deficit in one area or another.

Shared via .butterfly-maiden.com
Shared via .butterfly-maiden.com

And if you find you are struggling with work life balance, you need to ask yourself, “What do I need personally and professionally to feel that I have my own sense of balance so I can be my best self all the time?”  That may require you to set limits on your professional and personal activities and it may take adjustment over time.  It is like being on a see-saw with another person.  You may not strike a perfect balance between the two of you the first couple times you go up and down.  It definitely takes time, self awareness, regulation, and understanding others.

At the end of the day, we each need to recognize our own “work-life” balance, and be careful that we don’t impose our own free agency on the free agency of others while trying to be supportive.  

Love and Loss in an Elementary School – Why Relationships Matter.

Peggy Marston: Veteran teacher, special educator, long time district employee, friend, free spirit.  Marie Twitchell: Veteran teacher, mother, special educator, supporter, friend, and believer.
Gail St. Germain: Office aid, mother, grandmother, multi-tasker, caregiver, friend.

Shared via Linkedin
Shared via Linkedin

This week, I learned that a former staff member of mine, Gail St. Germain, passed away unexpectedly.  Gail was a constant in the Greene Central School office for many, many years.  She was known by the entire school community and she was a remarkable person.  There wasn’t a tear she couldn’t dry when scraped knees and hurt feelings made their way to the office, there wasn’t a job too big or too small that Gail couldn’t do, willingly I might add, and there wasn’t a day that she didn’t have a joke, or story to tell, or that she would take a minute to listen to a colleague, or a principal like me, that needed a good sounding board.  If there was s student in need, Gail would find them.  Boots, hats, mittens, you name it.  Large copying job, or supplies needed for a project, Gail was the go to person.  Somehow, at one point, she got the nickname “Hank”, which I probably laughed with her about a million times.  Gail was always there, for everyone, every minute of her day.

Peggy Marston was doubtful about my work initially.  She told me so in my office one day after I first started. It was hard for her to believe that we could hold a thoughtful IEP meeting that would only last an hour.  Peggy spent countless hours working to support special education students at Greene Central School, putting endless time into scouring over reports, calling parents, explaining test results, for the benefit of children.  Peggy felt that it was her job to not inadvertently label a child that wasn’t disabled, and she also felt that it was her job to support students and parents through the IEP process and beyond. Peggy also loved laughter. She was the loudest person in the room, and quite often, the funnest. This was evidenced through my interactions with her in building construction meetings, staff meetings, and when she came to my office after I worked in the school for a period of time and let me know I had proved her wrong, and that she liked how things were working out at the school.  She was a devoted colleague and often times, would provide much needed listening for friends and coworkers. It was a shock to me and her colleagues, getting a call at school letting us know that Peggy had passed away unexpectedly in her sleep.  A 26 year teacher, friend, and presence gone.

And then there was Marie Twitchell.  Marie worked with me when I got my first administrative job just outside of Augusta, Maine.  She worked with special education students, and many I may add, that sometimes not only had learning difficulties, but challenges in regulating behaviors as well.  Marie treated those students with the utmost dignity, especially after extremely disruptive and dangerous behaviors.  She held them in high regard, working to get them the help that they needed.  Afterwards, sharing a sigh of relief with me in my office, sometimes brainstorming another way to support, or just getting some much needed release after a tense situation.  Marie was the type of person that would send you a funny post card while on a trip, or would get you a quirky Christmas ornament for your tree.  I remember laughing out loud when she sent me a funny post card from her trip to San Francisco and had a clever closing in the note.  Marie’s colleagues appreciated her, as she was active in the school community, professionally, and personally.

When I left my job in Hall Dale, I did not realize the impact that my leadership had on Marie.  We worked together for four years, and my departure from the district, along with other changes, left her with a diminished feeling about her work.  After the passing of Peggy Marston, I called Marie to talk and I let her know that I had an opening, and shared the circumstances around the job.  Marie wanted to come back and work for me, and I was excited to have her join me again, supporting students and creating a school culture where students were valued, as much as the joy of teaching and helping others.

It wasn’t long after Marie joined me for a second time, that she began to not feel well, and after a series of medical appointments, doctor visits, and absences, Marie received bad news.  She had lung cancer, and the disease had progressed in such a way that it was not able to be treated and save her.  In late October of 2005, I sat down and wrote a letter to Marie, sharing with her my thoughts about our working relationship, and the friendship we had developed.  I had planned a visit to her home, and my intent was to give her the letter, asking her to wait and open it after I left.  I knew going into that visit that I could not be there when she read my letter.

Marie Twitchell: Colleague, Friend, Educator
Marie Twitchell: Colleague, Friend, Educator

In November of 2005, Marie Twitchell passed away, leaving behind a family, and history of helping students and colleagues.  Marie read my letter after I left from my visit that fall day, I got a call from her family asking that I be a pall bearer at her funeral and if I would be willing to read the letter during a gathering after the funeral.  I was touched, and realized that I had not known the impact I had on Marie, her work, and the lives of children.

I looked for that letter this morning and found it on my computer.  I’m sharing a link to the letter with you in this blog post. Although deeply personal, it only begins to underscore what I believe to be the importance of relationships in education and in life.  I had an impact on someone so great, that they wanted to work for me, even in the very last stages of their life.  You can read the letter HERE.

Because of these relationships, and the impact they had on me and students, there isn’t a moment during any given day, that I do not underscore the importance of relationships by being a good colleague, listening, and most importantly, rallying around the needs of students, our common cause.

Peggy, Marie and Gail you will continue to serve as inspiration to me. You were generous with your time, your kindness, and dedication to students and colleagues and you helped me, and still help me realize why relationships matter most.

What Stories Will You Make Possible This School Year?

It’s that time of year again when I am thinking about school a lot. Not that I don’t reflect on my work and the work of my school each day throughout the year, but particularly, at this time of the year, we’re getting ready to launch into what will soon be the opening of school.  I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t excited.  If you asked anyone that has been to school recently, they’d also tell you I’m excited!  Personally, and professionally, I am always excited for summer to end and to get back into routines and be with students and educators.

Shared via radair.com
Shared via radair.com

As we all know, schools are intended to be institutions of learning.  However, I got to thinking; Wouldn’t you want your school to also be known as generous, big hearted, and hopeful?  It then made me think- What stories do we want to make and what stories do we want to be possible for our school communities?While I was out walking my dog a couple of days ago, I noticed in my newsfeed a heading about President Obama speaking at the recent DNC.  I scrolled through the abbreviated transcript, and while I’m not interested in bringing politics into my professional life, I was struck by his speech and something he shared about his experience in the United States.  I read it over at least three times, thinking about what he had said, thinking about my work at school and thinking about all of our collective work as school principals and leaders.  The president talked about the United States as being a “generous, big hearted, hopeful country”. He then went on to share that because of that, the U.S. “made my story; that made all of our stories possible.”

There are two questions that arise from thinking this way as a principal:

  1. What conditions will you help create to have the best possible stories made?
  2. What stories will be made and TOLD by your students, educators, and parents?

As a principal, I know how important it is for me to not only create conditions for great stories to be told, but for me to share great stories as well.  As I am heading into the new school year, I am thinking of the following:

  1. Work hard to build positive relationships every day.  Do this with students, educators and parents, colleagues, my PLN, and everyone I come into contact with.
  2. Listen, listen, listen. Talk a little, listen some more.
  3. Be present, both physically and emotionally.
  4. Hold everyone, including myself, to reasonably high standards.
  5. Promote creativity, innovation, risk taking.
  6. Celebrate successes, and be forgiving when mistakes are made.
  7. Promote positivity, gratitude, and curiosity.
  8. Communicate a lot, in multiple ways, and be clear about the work of the schol.
  9. Share stories outside of the school to showcase all the great work students and educators are doing: Do this as much as possible.
  10. Most importantly, never waiver or lose focus on the needs of students.

For my students, educators, and parents,  I also recognize the importance of the school experience for them.  I know that they will come to school each day, and at the end of the day, will leave the school house with their own “stories” to share. Here’s what stories I hope we’ll help make for them:

  1. I was listened to and cared for by my school.
  2. In the school community, I was known and appreciated.
  3. I had the opportunity to ask questions, lots of questions, and I got to talk about learning with others.
  4. When I had a need or a problem, someone was available to me to help and support me.
  5. If I made a mistake, I knew that I would be respected and use the opportunity to learn.
  6. School was a safe place for me to be each day.
  7. Our school promoted and gave me opportunities to be creative and think.
  8. Every person in my school community was valued for their individual differences, and our collective strength as a group.
  9. Learning and teaching were fun, and I enjoyed being at school.
  10. Most importantly, I learned a lot about myself, and others, along with learning content.
Shared via kut.org
Shared via kut.org

While you’re getting ready to launch your school year, what conditions will you work to create that will influence the “stories” being told about your school?  What stories will you tell? One can’t help but think, and shouldn’t stop thinking of this while creating the best schools possible for our communities in the upcoming school year. My hope is that we all help create stories that reflect hope, generosity, kindness, and most importantly, learning.As I work through the last days of summer to help prepare for 500 students, 115 staff members, and our extended school community, I know that the words of the President will continue to run through my head. As I’m finalizing schedules, talking to new families, and supporting staff as they come into school and prepare for a new year.  I truly want them to leave OUR school each day and at the end of the year with stories that reflect kindness, hope, generosity, and most of all, a love for learning.

Why I Create…The Principal as Educational “Artist”

My professional career for the past 23 years has been as an educator.  I was an elementary school teacher and for the past 18 years, I’ve been a principal. For all intents and purposes, I generally tell people I am an administrator.  That is, until I thought about it tonight.  Tonight, I decided that actually, I create art.  

No, I don’t teach elementary art, and no, I’m not a school administrator moonlighting as an artist.  But I get to create art every day.  You see, I’m an administrator that is always thinking about work; my work, teachers’ work, students’ work, and I’m always reflecting upon the experiences I have and the experiences of those around me.  My goal is to always push myself to improve, most importantly, for students and teachers, and then of course, for myself.

Tonight as I was at my computer working on a number of different things both personally and professionally, I thought about Erik Wahl’s presentation last year at the NAESP 2015 Annual Conference.  Erik provided us with a highly engaging presentation related to creativity, as he encouraged principals and administrators to foster creativity as a means to improve the student and teacher experience.  As I thought about the presentation and my upcoming school year, I did a search on YouTube for Erik Wahl.  I particularly liked the following video:

The caption that accompanied the video noted:

“Erik encourages us to push our talents beyond what we think we are capable of in an effort to achieve something that we didn’t think we were capable of doing. Watch his collaborative project featuring an incredibly unique installation of the Mona Lisa portrait.”

So if I’m an elementary school principal, you’re probably wondering how I am creating art while leading a school of 500 students and 115 staff. Well, on some level, it is easy. You see, I love coming to work each day and serving students, educators and parents. When I tell you that I love it, I mean, I race to school each day eager to not only do my job well, but to do it better than I have the day before.  As Erik Wahl noted, I’m looking to “push my talents beyond what I’ve been capable of doing before”.  How do I do that?  I do it through reflecting on my work, asking myself what I could do differently or better, through networking with other administrators, by learning from educators that have skills that I don’t.  I’m honest with myself and the work I do, and I’m sure to celebrate my successes and admit my mistakes. It is often through my mistakes that I have some of my best learning.

Yet, where does the art come in?  What am I creating? Well, as I am reflecting on my work each day and pushing myself to continue to learn and do better, I’m also doing the following:

  • Promoting and creating positive relationships with students, educators, and parents, and being thoughtful about how I interact with them every single time.

  • Cultivating the climate and culture of my school, so that there is a positive experience for all members of the school community as they interact with each other.

  • Developing opportunities for educators, students, parents, and other staff across the district to collaborate and share ideas that are good for students.

  • Taking safe risks and supporting students, staff and parents as they work to create and innovate in an atmosphere that welcomes trying new things and is supportive when new ideas don’t work as we would have hoped.

  • Expecting high levels of work and effort from myself, educators, students and parents. Everyone is expected to give their best effort and everyone’s contribution to our school is valued.

  • Building relationships. They’re the cornerstone of everything we do in education.  As Dr. James P. Comer noted, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship”  My work each day is to connect, engage, empathize and support.

I could develop a longer list, however, I’m hoping that you see my point.  You see, I do create and I am an artist of sorts.  I’m an educational “artist”, working to create the very best conditions for students to learn and educators to teach, and for everyone to find joy in what they do, each and every day.  And if you’re a fellow school administrator, you’re also an artist.  You’re working to do the same things, and to provide the same joy for your students and teachers every single day.

Erik Wahl Twitter Photo
Shared via Twitter @ErikWahl Jul 11 #successisnonearerthanwheniwasyoung

You see, Erik Wahl has it right in thinking that we need to push ourselves beyond what we think we are capable of doing, or creating. He understands that the human experience benefits from art, and creating, and creativity.   It is in that place where we will do our best work for students.  It is in that place where we will learn, and make mistakes, and build relationships, and we will create. Why? Because we are all artists, and we should all be working to create the very best experience for our students.  

I”m excited about the possibilities of what I can help create for my school in the upcoming year. How will you create in your school? What artistry will you perform?