What if Your Glitch is Your Niche?

 

Before I begin, let me apologize for the wordsmiths out there who know that ‘glitch’ and ‘niche’ rhyme, but look different. It sounds good though!

Glitch: a minor problem that causes a temporary setback 

Niche: a place, status, activity, or employment where someone is best fitted


Famous Failures

The above video is an example of several successful people who, at one time, had a glitch. Maybe their glitch was lack of confidence, or the need for more practice. Maybe it was lack of emotional support or a physical impairment. Some of the glitches are obvious to us, and most likely there were some that were never made known to anyone. These famous failures have a major connection…they all had setbacks. The great thing about a glitch is that it is temporary. We can find ways to compensate, correct, or cope with glitches. They are major when they are happening, and many times, life changing. Once we discover our niche within them, we can press on and be stronger becasue of the struggle.

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I am a very reflective person by nature. Those who know  me, know that I am continually thinking on experiences and how to improve in the future. Reflection always connects to change and the future in my world. I have glitches…many of them! We all have strengths and, yes, weaknesses. When we can begin to separate weaker areas of our life from the glitches, we can discover our niche. Our weaknesses can be seen as glitches, and our strengths are where we find our niche. That is the sweet spot where we have the most influence.

Here is how it happens for me…I turn my glitches into niches! (Or at least I am working on it)

                             Glitch                                Niche
Overwhelmed!  

office “stuff”… emails, paperwork, etc.

Visibility!

Take it with me and work in classrooms where the action is

Negativity!

Naysayers, attack on public ed, energy vampires

#JoyfulLeaders!

Surrounding myself with positive people, seeking opportunities

Mandates!

Emphasis on testing, competition, grading, etc.

Core Values!

Expressing beliefs even if alone, passion for the WHY

Fatigue!

Not enough time in the day

Procaffeinating!

Coffee, coffee, coffee!

Okay, last one was for fun, but happens to be true in Beth’s world. 🙂

Overwhelmed

We all get this way, both professionally and personally. Many times it is when these two worlds collide that we feel the most overwhelmed and ultimately, inadequate. In many ways I create this glitch in my world because I tend to put off the medial tasks that do not directly tie to connections with people. My solution for this is transferring my location in order to be productive, yet involved in the culture and climate of my school. Sometimes I engage more than others, depending on deadlines. For the most part I can perfom the medial task while still being engaged with what is around me in classrooms, hallways, the cafeteria, or playground. Do I still become overwhelmed? Absolutely! I have found that when a day goes by and I have had minimal connections with kids, staff, and families, I feel the most overwhelemed and unproductive.

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Negativity

Isn’t it incredible how powerful negativity is? One comment, one person out of many, one word can suck the energy from a room. Negative people are simply toxic. There is no other way to describe them. My “glitch” is that I try to save the naysayers, the pessimists, and the “gloom and doom” that oozes from them. The truth is, the choice lies within each person on how they choose to view the world. We can influence by providing consistent support and be a light in their world, but we cannot allow them to steal our joy. The time comes where we must continue our influence, but from a distance in order to preserve our own dispositions. #JoyfulLeaders has become my mantra, my filter, my tool for positivity in leadership. What started as a hashtag in my journal two years ago has grown into a movement. That is my niche.

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Mandates in Education

This one is TOUGH…one that I am struggling with on a daily basis. I have a major glitch…the tenacious and determined kind. My passion often gets the best of me, and I am sometimes unable to withhold my emotions based on what I believe. There is a fine line between becoming negative about the mandates that have woven themselves into our profession, and seizing every opportunity to make a difference with kids, teachers, and in education itself. When I “cross over” to the desolate side, my core beliefs pull me back out. The laws, mandates, and red tape in our profession does not have to define us. We can find positive ways to use them to our advantage in effort to improve learning in schools. I am learning to turn this glitch into a niche in my current reality. As I learn, my core beliefs strengthen. My voice strengthens. My passion grows. That can only add value to what we do.

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Fatigue

One word. Procaffeinate! I am a master of dominating this glitch and turning it into a niche! Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

Seriously…do more of what gives you energy, whether that is sleep, excercise, eating healthy, or a devotional…DO MORE OF IT! If you do not have an outlet…find one. NOW. Don’t wait. Make it your goal to retire healthy one day.

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Find a glitch today, and then find your niche. #JoyfulLeaders do this almost without thinking, but we need to pause and reflect now and then to make sure we are on the right track. A strong personal learning network helps me do just that.

Thank you to all of the #JoyfulLeaders who fill my bucket every day, accept my glitches, and help me find my niche.

Bethany img_7564-1

Instead of Hate, Let’s Educate Betsy Devos 

Please read the following article published by The Washington Post, as my thoughts are based upon it. 

DeVos criticized teachers at D.C. school she visited — and they are not having it

I have been through many emotions regarding the changes in education, and the leadership our nation now has in place. I began at disbelief and refusal to entertain the idea of someone leading the Department of Education who has not one ounce of background in public education. The idea was (and still is) ludicrous, and I simply pushed it to the side, not thinking it would happen.  Reality began to set in, and I moved from disbelief to fury. I actually allowed it to consume me, losing sleep and fretting over the future of education and our kids. I began to think of my son, who is in his second year of college as a secondary education major…what does the future hold for him? I admit…I shared my strong opinions with politicians, through social media, with my school family, and anyone else who would listen. 

When Mrs. Devos was confirmed, I was at school in the hallway. I looked at Twitter to find an update and discovered the news. My fury, my anger…all turned to grief. I had to shut my office door and be alone. It had to sink in. It happened. Some may think it to be silly, but I cried for a moment. Real tears. I was hurt that my voice was ignored, along with the voices of millions who pleaded to find someone qualified to lead education. 

Now what? Disbelief. Fury. Sadness. Fear. All desolate emotions that stifle any light of hope from shining through. Mindset. It’s time to change mindsets. This happened. It REALLY happened. What am I going to do about it? 

                            NOW WHAT??? 




Upon my first read of the article above, I felt the need to become angry for the harsh judgement of the teachers in the school Mrs. Devos visited for a very short period of time. After some reflection, I realize that her comment about teachers being in “receive mode” and waiting to be told what to do is not something one could see in a brief visit. That comment is based on her perception of public schools. Her perception is her reality. She needs to be educated (irony here) to understand our purpose as educators. I lead a school, but so do the staff I serve. They are empowered and trusted to make informed decisions regarding what’s best for their kids. They do not sit around and wait for me to tell them what to do. We model leadership for our kids, so we are all leaders from where we are. My prayer is that Mrs. Devos learns this within her first months as she serves in education. It is a calling and a service, not a position which requires an agenda. If we had to produce one, the one and only item on it would be KIDS. 

I tag Mrs. Devos in some of the greatness happening in my school. I share some of my own passions and beliefs with her. I’ve asked her to follow me back so we can learn together. She’s our leader, and I believe leaders can do big things alone. I also believe that everyone leads, but not everyone is worthy of being followed. She will have to prove to me that she is truly out to do what is in the best interests of all kids. I’m approaching this with an open mindset and determination that will allow me to lead with her, along with millions of others who lead in our public schools each and every school day. Our kids need us. ALL of us. I am adamantly against everything Mrs. Devos stands for regarding the privatization of public schools, her opinions on kids with special needs, and many other issues…BUT…I want to lead. I want to be a voice for kids. I want to be heard…

So I will keep tweeting her. I will keep sharing articles about her actions within her role. I will do this with a cautious but open heart because I want to move public education forward. I will do this for the teachers and staff in my school family who lead alongside myself and kids every school day. Mrs. Devos…please join us. 

Bethany 

Lifeline of a Lead Learner

Teacher: “Okay, boys and girls…today we are increasing our amount of creative free writing.”

Students: (in a wave across the room) “YEEEESSSSS!”

This is the conversation I am listening to at this very moment. Kids excited about being able to express themselves freely, and a teacher willing to offer them the opportunity. I hear kids discussing their thoughts, sharing their writing, and collaborating.

Student: “Can I write a blog post?”

Teacher: “Of course you may!”

Me: (because I can no longer remain silent) “We can publish it on our school blog!” (student smiles BIG)

img_6984These conversations…this environment…a community…a family…eagerness to express…this is where the magic happens. I miss it. I miss having a classroom full of kids that I get to spend all day with every school day. I miss being the one who makes a difference in little lives. I miss the family connections, the story times, the lightbulb moments. Wow, I miss it. As a lead learner, I am so fortunate to have 450 kids and families! I thrive on getting hundreds of hugs and high fives every single day! I love what I do and it is my WHY…but I do miss that magical place called the classroom. I have to be there, even if it is to sit in and listen to conversations. It is where I find my joy throughout the school day. It is why I carry my laptop and clipboard around with me, or on a mobile office. I must be where kids and teachers are. I need it…

THIS…the classroom… is my lifeline as a lead learner.

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Every now and then there comes a day where I am literally in the office all day. Those days rob me of my joy. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but most times it isn’t! Every other school day I wander the halls, in and out of classrooms, outside on the playground, in the gym, the cafe, the front entrance…wherever I can talk with kids, staff, and families who visit. Sometimes I work on my laptop, checking emails, editing the family newsletter, and fulfilling other managerial tasks. I could do this in my office, but why? Technology allows me to be anywhere and do these things. I choose to be near my lifeline. We all know visibility is a must as lead learners, but to me it is more than fulfilling part of the job description. To me it is my JOY, my WHY, my INSPIRATION.

Today I entered a classroom and sat down in the floor with plans to “work” a little while I listened to and observed in a classroom. To my surprise, I became inspired by the joy exuding from kids when it was time for writing workshop. I began to look around and see kids immersed in writing and collaboration with other kids, and I couldn’t help but open up my blog and begin writing myself. Why not?

img_6983Kids are simply amazing…so is the school staff. They are where I need to be. Lead Learner (principal) friends…get out of that office. Make it a goal each day to live in the moment, to catch celebrations, lightbulb moments, creativity, and connections. Don’t miss out because of things that can wait. Be present! Go to your lifeline, and feel the energy you get from it. You will never want to be any other way.

Teacher: “The timer is about to go off and you guys had no idea I added five minutes because you were so engaged in writing. I think we need to share though.”

Lifeline.

Bethany

Written during fourth grade writing workshop…inspired by our kids. 

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Moving from a Classroom of Kids to a Community of Learners


Discipline and classroom management are two major components of school culture. Within each classroom is a community that runs differently from the next room down the hall. All communities together make up one large community, each contributing to the school’s overall culture. Neither can be taken lightly, and when one isn’t in place, the environment for leanring is simply not effective.
Every educator and parent/guardian has their own take on discipline. Some equate it to punishment, others see it as teaching. Some see it as a combination of the two. Discipline is most successful in our schools when strong relationships exist within an environment where clear expecations are set and procedures are in place. Most importantly, the child’s voice must play a role in classroom community. When these four concepts are woven into each day, a classroom of of kids becomes a community of learners.
When relationships are authentic and trusting, procedures are in place that kids understand and value, and they play an active role in decisions about classroom structure, will misbehavior be prominent? Will we need to “discipline” kids continually if these things are part of the classroom and school culture?

Strong Relationships

img_5409-1 Relationships, relationships, relationships. We all hear on a daily basis how important they are. We all know that if we do not love kids first, they are almost impossible to teach…but…are we intentional enough about personal relationships with individual kids in a classroom and school? Are there times when we go through the motions and do business, rather than authentically connecting with all kids? The answer to both questions is no doubt a big YES, because we all have days where we are not at our best. We have all made the mistake of missing out on an opportunity to connect and make a difference because of our current focus or mood. I look back on times where I have done this, and I am ashamed. I am remorseful and have deep regret. We are human and all mistakes, but I never want to have regret regarding relationships with others. Kids need us to be on our game and at our best every single day. A bad day will happen now and then, but what if some classrooms have mulitple bad days? Consider the damage that is done and the missed opportuities within those classrooms. THIS keeps me up at night.

Building strong relationships is a nonnegotiable. We simply cannot have teachers in classrooms who refuse to connect and choose to stay business like. It is no longer acceptable. Every educator needs to continually reflect and ask themselves,

“Am I THAT educator? Am I the ONE people wouldn’t want their child to have? Am I less preferred over other teachers because of my interaction with kids?” 

Question your own intentions by reflecting on them regularly. Keep yourself in check when it comes to strong and lasting relationships with children in your classroom and school. Don’t be THAT educator!


Clear Expectations

ad0b6-img_5675Setting clear and high expectations is nothing new to what is required by teachers. There are general “rule” posters available for purchase that list expectations, and some make their own to post before a new school year begins. Safety procedures/expectations are important and exist no matter what a class is like, or who a child is. Other expectations such as how we treat each other, how we ask for help, how we best learn, etc. are discussions that need to happen with all involved. Expectations that are preset will ultimately fail because of lack of clarity and lack of ownership.  Consider the following common expectation in classrooms and schools:

Treat each other with respect.

How vague is that? How many interpretations or understandings of that phrase can you think of? Kids may see it in one or more of the following ways:

  • Don’t be mean. (will that look different to each child?)
  • Be nice. (see above!)
  • Use your manners. (Do all kids know the same manners, or any?)
  • Don’t touch.
  • Be quiet. (How many kids are told this at home… a lot?)

As stated above regarding expectations, unless it is modeled for kids and consistent throughout a school, it will never become part of the culture. Kids will unintentially receive mixed signals. We must be clear by modeling appropriate responses when kids are not treating each other respect so they can learn how to resolve conflicts without misbehaving in return.

Empathy is the golden key to the mansion of respect!

Clear expectations and empathy go hand in hand. When kids and the teacher are seeking to understand where another person is coming from, patience takes over. Patient kids are less likely to lash out at others. Respect becomes more defined, and kids begin to understand that it is so much more than “being nice”. Expectations regarding tone of voice, body language, nonverbal cues, reciprocal discourse, collaboration, and honoring someone’s space are all areas which cause misbehavior and conflict among kids. Dicussing these by attaching them to situations or scenarios will support kids’ comprehension of the learning community. When the majority of kids are knowledgable about these aspects of respect, a classroom begins to transform into a family.

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Procedures, Procedures, Procedures

The beginning of every school year is spent going over “the rules”. Kids are continually told what to do and when to do it. There are many procedures that must be in place in order to keep people safe, and those procedures are the nonnegotiables of school! The important thing to remember is to discuss with students WHY these nonnegotiables are in place. Telling kids to do something and not explaining the purpose behind it can cause lack of trust and unwillingness to follow procedures that will keep everyone safe. Furthermore, explaining the purpose helps kids understand their role in having a safe community–that it isn’t just about them individually , but about the collective group. Kids need to understand, “When I follow procedures, I am making a contribution to my environment. I am adding value to it.”

We often assume that kids know specific procedures and what they look like. We must never assume this! For example, let’s consider the following expectation:

We always walk quietly in the hallway.

Consider how many ways this statement may be interpreted!

  • My feet need to be quietly walking, but I can still talk.
  • I am always quiet, even when I am giggling with a friend!
  • Quiet doesn’t mean silent so I can still talk in line.
  • I know quietly means NO talking and having quiet feet!
  • I see grown ups talking loudly in the hallway, so I guess I can talk as well.

So many interpretations or understandings of that phrase exist. Unless it is modeled for kids, and consistent throughout a school, this procedure will never be a clear one for anyone, including teachers. There will always be question on what walking queitly in hallway looks and sounds like. We must be clear by modeling appropriate actions, how to use materials, transitions, voice level, collaboration,  etc. Kids do not automatically know or remember to “act appropriately” in these areas. It takes discussion and demonstration for them to learn the appropriate behaviors.

When I was teaching kids in a classroom, I had a procedure for everything, from how to put a cap back on a dry erase marker (if you don’t hear the pop, it isn’t closed and will dry out!), to sharpening pencils, to visiting the restroom, etc. Much time was invested in modeling and practicing these procedures, as well as reteaching them after weekends and long breaks. The time spent came back to me tenfold because we didn’t waste time during transitions. Kids knew what and how to do routine things in the classrooms, and helped remind each other if someone forgot. The best teachers I know have very clear expectations for kids, but also communicate with kids in a manner that says (in kid friendly terms, of course!),

“I respect you. I care for you. I want you to be safe, and I want our classroom to be an awesome place. You are a contributor. You matter in our class family. Here is how you add value, and why.”

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Student Voice

When we silence ourselves for a given time, and intentionally listen to kids…WOW. They can tell us so much about what they need in order to be successful. They can also teach us about ourselves and what we need for our own growth as educators. We are here for them…if there were no students, there would be no need for us! Getting caught up in “managing” a classroom can happen quickly, sometimes before we even realize it. Managing is easier than leading. It is much more safe, comfortable, and likely less time consuming.

Managers of classrooms will have a class of students. The kids will be compliant, safe, and orderly. There will be clearly defined expectations and procedures, but not all kids will understand why they are in place. What they do know is that it will be considered a bad choice if a rule is broken, and there will be a consequence. Classrooms led by managers generate lots of kids who do what they are told, and a few who rebel against most rules (probably because they do not understand why they are important). Do you know teachers who are managers? We all do. They run their classroom like a business, and it can appear to be effective at a glance. Beware of the MANAGER TRAP!

img_0617Leaders of classrooms have a very different perspective…they see their classroom as a community of learners, people who add value to the class family as a whole. They are listened to, and more importantly, they are heard. Many decisions regarding how the classroom works are made as a collective group, with the lead learner and the children problem solving and being proactive together. When kids have a voice and an opinion that is valued, it is simply amazing what they can do! Their disposition on learning and school in general will shift to a very positive outlook. Student voice allows kids to build confidence, take risks in a safe environment, choose how they best learn, and what they need in place in order to be their very best.

Are we listening enough? Are our kids being heard? I ask myself that continually. Managers run a tight ship, but leaders empower and produce captains! Which would you rather be a member of?

Classroom to Community…I would want my own kids to be involved in a community…a family who contributes to the community within the classroom and the entire school. All kids deserve that.

Bethany

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#OneWord2017…CHAMPION

“We are the Champions”, by Queen, featuring The Peanuts

2014…INSPIRE…2015…FEARLESS…2016…EMPOWER…2017…CHAMPION


It is hard to believe that a new year is upon us. It seems like yesterday I was reflecting on my one word for 2016 and preparing a blog post with a friend. Each year seems to go by faster, both personally and professionally! 2017 is here…and I am ready! My journey to finding THAT word was a struggle this year. I even found myself fighting against what was staring me in the face. I had it all along, but I just didn’t see it. The struggle was REAL, friends! The fact is, it should be a struggle. In order to grow and to set goals that challenge us, we must be uncomfortable. It requires owning up to mistakes, failures and weaknesses. It forces us to think about what we lack in order to be where we want to be. The struggle is part of the process, and I am happy to say that it was worth the time and effort.

We all know of the book behind the genius of the one word process, One Word that Will Change your Life, by Jon Gordon, Jimmy Page, and Dan Britton. Recently they have published a new book entitled Life Word. The process is somewhat similar, but the word is related to the legacy a person wants to establish and leave. Between the two processes, I found myself reflecting, analyzing, and looking ahead. I asked people in my inner circle to give me feedback, just as the book suggests. It was through the feedback of a close friend that my word came to fruition. She put into words what I could not. The moment I received her message, I felt peace, and my #OneWord2017 surfaced…

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CHAMPION. Out of context most would assume it refers to the winner of something; someone who comes out on top of a competition. As I read my friend’s words, I realized what she was trying to help me see. She knows my heart, and through many deep conversations we have shared, she knows my goals. She linked me to the word CHAMPION as a form of action! To champion for something means to fight for it, which is what educators do every day. We fight for kids, their education, and for what is best for ALL of them. I have my word, and a song to represent it.

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I am a fighter. I stick up for what I feel is right. I champion for kids. I champion for the profession I care so much about. I champion for public education because I know it is what our kids need. I champion for change in politics that impact public education in a negative way. I am ready to fight.

My ammunition? Fighters need it. I have it. My weapons are strong enough to take on whatever I may face, and will help me grow both personally and professionally. I will use all of it, and will borrow ammunition from others when I need it, and from God when I am at my weakest.

Ammunition…

Faith. Positivity. Learning.

Faith

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Via Facebook, nametests.com

Faith challenges us because it cannot be seen. Trusting something we cannot see is not always comfortable. I will champion with faith at the forefront. It will be my shield of armor to protect me from swaying. Through faith I can champion with self control and with love. Fear will not be a factor.

 

Positivity

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Look for the hashtag on Twitter!

The negativity in our world is everywhere, especially on television and social media. The power of positivity is something I believe in fully, and we simply cannot have enough inspiration! Some call it fluff, but I consider it a lifeline for championing. I need to be uplifted, and I need to uplift others. #JoyfulLeaders has helped me begin to fulfill my purpose…to champion for positivity, and remind leaders the WHY of leading. People without hope break my heart. They need joy, and it is up to others to support them until they can find it from within. I am stronger because of the people I choose to surround myself with, and feel so much comfort in knowing that positivity is all around me. It is keeping me sheltered, and guarding my heart.

CHAMPION. I will do this.

I will CHAMPION for what is absolutely best for kids.

I will CHAMPION for the best educators to serve kids.

I will CHAMPION for my school’s culture to stay uplifting and empathetic.img_6609

I will CHAMPION for individuals who need to find joy.

I will CHAMPION for my own faith and positivity, and use it to empower others.

I can do this. I will need help. I cannot succeed alone. Others will fight with me. A special person from my PLN helped me discover my #OneSong2017… “We are the Champions”. WE…because I will champion with others who are fighthing for the same things. WE are better together.

2017…here I come to fight like a CHAMPION!

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A special thanks to Karen Norton and Sean Gaillard for their continued positiviy and willingness to take on the craziness in my mind. 

#JoyfulLeaders: A Hashtag is Born

JOY. I love this word. When I hear it, I want to smile. I constantly look for it in others, and if it isn’t there, I strive to instill it. JOY. Everyone should have it. Everyone should feel it. We are meant to experience joy, but we are also meant to share our joy with others. My favorite word has become part of who I am, how I live, and how I lead.

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How can we make sure our joy is seen, heard, and felt? We must be intentional. Sharing our joy can “just happen”, but it is so powerful when it is intentionally spread to others. I have found that sharing joy, even when I am struggling with my own, ultimately comes back to me in a powerful way.

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My school family at Central Elementary has been blessed to serve as a model school for Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus for Schools Leadership Journey, led by Niki Spears. I read The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon many years ago, and it changed my entire mindset. I am thankful for a school family who has embraced the ten rules for the ride of your life, and model them daily for our kids. We lead and serve each day in education, and I choose to lead with JOY.

The hashtag #JoyfulLeaders is born upon the publishing of this post. Along with what I hope becomes a widespread joy movement, comes 10 traits of #JoyfulLeaders. There are so many more, but these are the 10 that I hold close and try to live out each day.

Ten Habits of #JoyfulLeaders

#JoyfulLeaders…

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Look for the hashtag on Twitter!
  1. Smile…a lot!
  2. Are intentional.
  3. Always look for ways to share joy with others.
  4. Seek out people with an empathetic heart.
  5. Serve with humility.
  6. Inspire with purpose.
  7. Laugh out loud!
  8. Make eye contact.
  9. Listen to understand.
  10. Keep love at the center of the organization in which they belong.

#JoyfulLeaders have the capacity to build other #JoyfulLeaders, and the ripple effect begins with YOU. We are all leaders where we serve. I serve kids, and I do so with JOY in my heart. Whatever you do, and wherever you lead, do it with joy…be a #JoyfulLeader and make your mark on the world, while inspiring others to do the same.

Find your JOY, and never stop sharing it with the world. photo8 (2)

Bethany

A special thanks to Jon Gordon for continually inspiring, and for his Chief Energy Officer, Niki Spears for her support with becoming an Energy Bus School. They are both true examples of #JoyfulLeaders.

Recreating the Principal Stereotype

(Breakfast Club)

Originally posted for leadupnow.com

When you mention the phrase “the principal’s office”, what comes to your mind? Paddlings? Suspensions? Other punishments? Bad news phone calls? Detention? Missed recesses?  I could continue with the list of negative actions associated with the title of principal. We are notoriously known for being “the bad guys” of school. Many  of the assumptions made by others are due to the way things used to be regarding classroom management and punishments attached to specific behaviors. Sadly, there are places where this type of school leader still exists.

I AM ON A MISSION! img_5515

I challenge all LEAD LEARNERS (this “title” is the first process in breaking the mold) to join me. I also invite anyone in education, and anyone who supports education (this should be everyone!) to join me in an effort to break the mold of what used to be, and redefine what needs to be! Let’s create a new stereotype for the principal/lead learner role. It starts with considering perceptions and assumptions of others.

What People Perceive

Everyone makes assumptions, even when they are diligently attempting not to…it is human nature to use what we know to connect to a new situation. Some share their perception of what they see, and others choose to withhold. Consider some of the following statements and questions I hear from others:

  • YOU’RE the PRINCIPAL? (insert shocked face image)img_5398
  • You look way too nice to be a principal.
  • I bet none of the kids are afraid of you!
  • Aren’t you a little young to be “in charge” of a school?
  • You’re way too happy and smile way too much to be a principal.
  • You don’t look like any principal I have ever seen. (How does a principal look, anyway?)
  • I bet when you have to paddle kids it doesn’t even hurt!
  • You had jeans on, so I assumed you were a teacher (yes, someone said this!)
  • So why in the world do you stand outside and monitor the car line instead of getting a staff member to do it?
  • I threatened my son with you last night! He better not have to come see you!
  • You’re the boss, you have people to do __________ for you.
  • I heard you spoke to my child today and I did not receive a phone call that he was in trouble. (That’s because he wasn’t! I talk to all kids!)
  • What punishment does she get for having to come see you?
  • If I had principals like you when I was a kid, I would have been in trouble all the time just to go to the office! (insert awkward laugh)
  • Aren’t you a little too “out there” to be a principal? Everyone sees your social media profiles. Are you not afraid to be judged for self promoting?
  • I assumed the principal was a man.
  • Saved the best for last… “You’re way too HOT to be a principal!” (Seriously??)

 

 

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Local Dancing with the Stars competition

Education administration is primarily a man’s world, which most likely enhances some of the perceptions and assumptions, but much of what people have experienced in the past as a student has caused them to have fixed opinions about the principal’s role in a school. Most times I am able to laugh these comments off…let them roll off of my back, so to speak. There are times when I am offended by them, depending on the tone, nature of comment, or who is speaking it. It becomes hurtful when people decide my ability based on assumptions before ever given a chance to show them who I am. Everyone faces judgement by others, and it hurts to the core at times. We can allow this to define us. We can also allow it to wear us down. We can sometimes even give in completely and become ineffective within our role. I refuse to do that. I am on a mission to inform others on what being a lead learner in a school is truly all about. I WILL break through the perceptions and stereotypes to recreate the mold. We are so much more than punishers and bosses. It is time to transition from “The Principal” to “The Lead Learner”.  I suggest starting with 3 responsibilities to become focused on breaking the mold. We cannot create a new perspective without stamping out the old.

 

Lead Learners are Encouragers

Everyone needs encouragement, whether they want to admit it or not. Kids need it continually, and will ask for it in many ways. Some will ask you to validate them, and others will seek attention even if it means they have to act out in order to be noticed. We have no idea what some of our kids are leaving behind them when they enter the building, so they need encouragement and validation on a regular basis.

Teachers and staff need an encourager. They have one of the most challenging jobs because everything they say and do impacts the kids around them either positively or negatively. What a challenging position to be in for five days a week! School staff need to be reminded they make a difference academically and socially. The little things that are done for children…sticking an extra snack in a child’s backpack, hugs, personal notes, positive phone calls home…they are encouragers to their kids and families. I must be an encourager for them.

Lead Learners are REAL People

img_3333-1One of the biggest reasons for assumptions of principals is that most do not know who they really are! We are viewed as “secret people” who do not come out of the office much, don’t go out in public to eat or shop, have people do most things for them within the school, and considered unapproachable. I don’t want to be viewed as unapproachable. I want people to know I am authentic, and someone to count on for support and encouragement (see above!). Some of my favorite times of the day are the conversations with kids, families, and staff that are impromptu, unscheduled, and even random! Those are the moments that we can often make the largest impact.

Appearance is a first impression, and we are often judged by this alone. Some people make up their mind about others simply based on one’s stature, gender, hair color, etc. It can be hurtful when we are shunned or underestimated because of how we look! Everyone experiences it at some point, as I have and do. Phrases such as, “The Barbie Principal”, “Blondie”, and “High Maintenance” have been often used in reference to me in the past. I have been judged on my intelligence and ability simply because I have blonde hair. How do we move through the obstacles of these stereotypes? The answer is simple…by showing our REAL! Wear jeans and tshirts (and not just on Fridays)! Play with kids outside and even get dirty! Grab the mop in the cafe when there is a spill. Talk to kids and families in stores and restaurants. Attend kids’ events and activities when possible. Actions speak loudly…what do they need to say to others in order to recreate the mold?

Lead learners demonstrate transparency of not having all the answers, making mistakes, and asking for forgiveness. I mess up daily. I fail daily. I also do things right and achieve success daily. This is life. Great leaders are successful, but imperfect. The power is in ownership of imperfections and allowing others to support them. That is REAL.

Lead Learners Share Passion for What They Do

img_4704Passion is a must in order to live life fully, and to achieve happiness. Without passion, life does not have much meaning. The passion we have within us is directly connected to our WHY, and how we live it to inspire others. It is meant to be shared, not withheld. You will be ridiculed by some for being “over the top” or “a little too excited”, and that is perfectly fine. Few people will see your passion that way, and most will see it as a fuel for their own passion. The ability to share passion is a gift like no other, and keeps on giving to everyone who is exposed. Families want passionate educators for their children and they deserve nothing less! If an educator lacks passion or is unwilling to share their love for what they do, then it is time to leave the profession. Kids do not have time for lukewarm educators; they need adults who are on fire and ready to make the biggest difference possible. When we become transparent about our profession, and show others our passion, it creates a safe harbor for families. They know without a doubt that their children are loved, valued, and have people invested in them. Imagine children and families who do not have this because of lukewarm educators. It is unfair and ultimately harmful.

Encourage. Be REAL. Share the passion. Do all of these things daily, not just when you have time, or remember to do them. Make them a part of who you are. Weave them into your purpose–your WHY. Transparency of these traits will help others know you, and trust you. Do these things with joy and intentionality, because you cannot fake authenticity or passion.

Breaking a mold is not easy, but it will be worth it. What mold are you working in? Does it need to be recreated in order to make a larger impact? If you have recreated a new perception of the school leader, are you reflecting on it’s impact and revising if necessary?

Be the BEST you can be for kids each and every day. Kids deserve that, and so do you. Squash the stereotypes through actions and conversations. Prove the importance of the lead learner role. We have so much power. Let’s use every ounce to be heroes for the profession, and to recreate the stereotype. Join me…we are better together.

Bethany img_4868


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