While it is perfectly perfect Chamber of Commerce weather in Tucson right now, I am packing up long underwear, gloves, hat, and much more for work this week. I will be in New Jersey for a couple of days then headed on to the middle of Saskatchewan for the remainder of the week. The weather in Saskatchewan appears to be a high of 15 degrees on the days I am there. Have I mentioned that I am originally from San Antonio, Texas where 15 degrees should only be in Celsius (don't think I didn't check to see if the 15 degrees might be in Celsius (hopeful, hopeful thinking---no dice))?
But you know what? I am still completely jazzed about the trip! Not only will I be working with school leaders who care deeply about the work of helping their teachers improve their craft and then working with teachers on improving their questioning and discussion skills (in New Jersey) then working with teachers in Canada on increasing their knowledge of the depth of understanding of components that increase their effectiveness in teaching for two days. And that, my friends, is why I will put on my long underwear underneath a dress or pantsuit to brave the elements on the way to said workshops.
What keeps me so passionate about what I do?
Three things: my workshop participants, talking with fellow colleagues and reading educational publications, and working with my Educational Leadership students at two different universities where I teach.
My workshop participants
Every time I work with a group of educators and educational leaders, I learn more and more. In fact, Charlotte Danielson (personal communication, 2019) says that teachers learn so much more from talking with one another than they do from an expert talking TO them. Educators simply need the opportunity to talk with each other. When I talked with a group of educational leaders last week in Pennsylvania, I asked what the reason would be that teachers might trust their principals more if they have only worked for them for less than a year than if they have worked for them for more than 10 years. One of my participants said, "I think it is because teachers come into the field ready to trust their principals." Yes! I agree. So, what happens after five years or so? Why might the trust decrease? Others talked in pairs then shared out that they believe it might have something to do with the notion that, after some time, teachers see the "real" person for whom they work. Yikes! Scary as that might be, there might be some real truth to it.
I like to end my workshops with the quote: "Sometimes, the people you are trying to inspire end up inspiring you the most." I believe it! What are your thoughts?
Fellow colleagues and educational gurus
I have a dear friend and colleague who shares her curriculum ideas, resources, and insights with me even when I don't ask. She is in her 70s and still has more energy than most people my own age. Why? I happen to believe that it has a lot to do with the fact that she loves learning. She reads many educational journals and keeps current on new trends that are impacting education. She is my role model. But I also follow a lot of really great people on Twitter and LInkedIn. I love hearing what people in the field of education have to say about the daily work in schools. While I adore the Gerry Brooks videos (you simply must check a few out on YouTube), I also am just as inspired by Doug Lemov's techniques in "Teach Like a Champion" or even some of the tidbits from Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture". One of his stories describes how Disney employees are taught how to answer people's question with a positive outlook. In other words, if someone asks, "What time does the park close?", most normal answers would sound like, "11:00 tonight". Not so at a Disney property. Disney employees are taught to answer something like, "The park will remain open until 11:00 tonight." Shhhhh......don't tell, but the park is still going to close at 11:00. But what is the point? Sometimes the way people say things alters the way things are heard and accepted.
My students who are going to become school leaders
I like teaching online courses, even though I miss the comfort and relationship building that occurs more easily in face-to-face classes. My students are typically teachers who have a strong desire to become school leaders. I teach classes on Educational Finance, Education Law, Shaping School Culture, and Developing and Empowering School Leaders. The conversations that come out of their mouths (or rather out of their computers) encourage me about the shape of the next generation of school leaders. While being a principal was one of the hardest jobs I ever did (next to slicing beef at a BBQ restaurant when I was in high school without slicing my hand), it was also the most rewarding and created life-long friendships and relationships with students, staff and parents. Watching new, potential school leaders develop their own philosophy of leadership while also learning that the way they write and talk can make or break their relationships helps me become a better consultant who can support the efforts of current schools, districts, and universities. My experiences with universities (supporting student teachers, teaching classes, mentoring doctoral students, etc.) is a perfect complement to the work I do in schools.
I wouldn't trade what I do for the world, but I wouldn't turn down a cup of hot chocolate this next week when it is below freezing.