The Rear View Mirror

I remember when I was learning to drive a car, the importance of using the rear view mirror became pretty evident (don’t forget, I learned to drive a car long before the creation of backup cameras!).  Being able to parallel park was a requirement for your driver’s exam and that rear view mirror seemed to be the most valuable tool that you had to use. There have been many days of driving that I wished that it was much bigger. Why is there such a disproportionate distinction between the size of that rear view mirror and the front window? rear-view-mirror-drawing-58 Couldn’t the automakers have created something more realistic for drivers like me?  (After all these years, backing up is still not my strongest suit!) And, what in the world does this have to do with a blog on school improvement?

I actually think it is a great analogy.  First of all, to really improve schools you have to do both… reflect and learn from what has happened in the past and at the same time, we have to be looking ahead.  That rear view mirror becomes the lessons learned from past practices, mistakes and successes.  It is last year’s student data, goals we set, etc. as well as the time to reflect on what really happened at the school.  And, now, I love that there is a such a difference between the rear view mirror and the front window! In all honesty, the real looking that we have to do is forward… out that front window.

Being able to picture what we want our school to become, what our common purpose really is and setting goals and action plans in motion, to get us there, is that forward look.  Seeing where we are at, in other words, our current reality, is a great use for those big windows too.  I know for a fact, the GPS will only work (aka- a map), if I know where I am starting from. The rear view mirror also comes in real handy when we are determining where we are.  Being lost on the road brings confusion and an obvious lack of direction. These are not the feelings that. you want to experience when you are working to improve your school.

As I continue to work in schools this year, I will use the comparison of the rear view mirror and the front window as my personal visual for where the work and conversations should go.  For example, if the discussions are becoming too lengthy about the past, then I know we are way beyond the small size of that rear view mirror. To keep looking forward, we need to think about the broader picture of where we are going, what lies ahead and what road map will get us there.  Maybe those automakers did know a thing or two about design… there really is a reason for the window to be so much bigger than the mirror.

To the principals reading this, I hope this helps you frame what you want your focus to be as you begin this school year.  You know that the past is important but it is not where we dwell.  You get that some of your teachers will want to spend more time on what have been their experiences in the past and you will need to lead the conversations forward, to what you want to become as a school, not where you have been.  I am not saying the historical context isn’t important, it just isn’t what will get you where you want to go.

Consider what questions that you can ask to move forward while at the same time honoring the reflective thinking of past experiences.  Create opportunities for teachers to spend time understanding “where” they are and what road that they will take to continue on your journey.  What steps are going to drive you forward?  As you are driving this week, remember to keep your eyes on the road looking forward to what is ahead and that small, rear view mirror to clarify what is behind you.  Thanks for reading and see you next Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Believe

When I leave home this time of the year to go to work, someone always asks me what in the world I do to support schools in the heat of the summer?  Teachers are off enjoying their long summer breaks, right?  Who would I possibly work with in the middle of July? The last thing that teachers want to do in the summer is go to school?  Isn’t it?  So, what do I go off and do in July in the name of school improvement? How do I find anyone to work with?

Well, if the truth be told, for most educators, the learning never stops.  They might take a break for a while, but they are soon reading, preparing, attending conferences or studying together.  Now, I know, this is not the impression that many of my non-teacher friends have about “summer” and “teachers”.  But, think about it, if you have had an opportunity to share a meal or a coffee with an educator over the summer, I bet it doesn’t take long for the conversation to be about school.  We just can’t seem to help ourselves… we shut if off for a while to celebrate and enjoy the end of a school year  but soon our minds are moving on to the next year.  And, getting ready can take on a whole life of its own for the educators who want to work together in the summer months.  Let me introduce you to some who I have recently met.

Over the past two weeks, I have worked in four different schools (in two states) with teachers invested in learning together.  In the four schools, there are different neighborhoods, unique student needs and different expectations by the leaders (district and school).  The bottom line though, is, the teachers come together to learn because they believe in their students and they are willing to accept leadership roles in their schools.  636174569062629052-1906224031_believe_nischalaIn all four schools, these teachers want to create a shared leadership model that demonstrates an ongoing commitment to  “we’ve got this” or “they are our students” not “mine” and “yours”.

These hard-working educators come to the table with a variety of skills, experiences and understanding of the work to be done. Sometimes, they express concerns about not knowing  “how” to lead and we work through clarifying expectations, building understanding of common purpose and most importantly, creating confidence in their ability to support the work necessary to make a difference in the lives of their students. You see, in all of these schools, they undeniably understand that collaborating and sharing in the work together will create a far greater chance for students to learn.  And, most importantly, they believe in their students. Honestly, how I see it is these educators understand that by believing in their students, they are saving lives. What can get better than this as a purpose to our work?

When I think about the difficult, bumpy road that school improvement is, I always go back to three necessary ingredients one- you must have educators and leaders who will collaborate, create common purpose and share ownership (no-one can do this work in isolation), two- you have to do the right work (in other words, you have to know what is going to get you results and stay intentional in your work to get there) and lastly- you have to believe in your students. Without the belief, it really doesn’t happen.

This last one is a hard one.  In so many schools, the disconnect between wanting students to succeed and KNOWING that they can succeed is the elephant in the room.  How do you develop unconditional belief in others? What does it take to have a mindset that is genuinely positive that each and every student will succeed? And, if we are to share ownership and leadership  of student learning, how do we influence others to believe?   Consider these three questions as you get ready for this new school year.    Reflection and discussion of where we honestly are with our thinking and beliefs is a very important exercise for educators to do together and there is no time better than the first of the year to create your collective commitments to each other.  Will you commit to shared leadership and ownership? And, will you truly agree to model, in all of your actions and words, a 100% commitment to a belief in each student in your school? They sure know when we do or we don’t and nothing builds confidence faster than knowing someone else has it for us! Let’s face it, as humans, we have energy and enthusiasm for what we are doing when we know others believe in us.

I know that the educators who I worked with during the past two weeks are believers and I know they want to continue to be when they actually start working with the students.  That is when the rubber will hit the road, in other words, staying true to their beliefs despite the challenges that come before them in the shape of a student, will be the test. Personal and professional buckets are filled during the summer and once the doors of the school are open again, these buckets seem to deplete quite quickly. Someone who means the world to me reminded me, this week,  that I am doing this work to save lives. With all of my heart, I have to believe in my principals and teachers. And they in turn have to believe in the students.  This is what we do and so as you think about the 2018-2019 school year, I  ask you to believe…no matter what…don’t stop believing.  Have a great week.  See you next Saturday.

Becky

As 2017 was coming to an end, I started this weekly Saturday blog to share my experiences and thoughts as I continue to work to improve schools.  Before taking a summer break, I had penned 25 posts (you can read them all below here if you want!).  I truly enjoy the opportunity to share and love the feedback that I receive on the blog.  I wanted to come back to it refreshed and ready to write and I wasn’t sure on what Saturday I would start posting again; I just knew that after a short break, I would.  Someone very dear to me has a saying that he uses when I am struggling with a decision… “relax and wait for the sign”.  The sign came to me this week,  on July 10, when I learned of a dear friend’s passing… Becky DuFour. rebecca-dufour-530_1 Today, Saturday, July 14, is her 58th birthday. And so, this post is dedicated to Becky and all she has taught me about schools… and about life.

For the educators reading this, I am pretty sure that Becky’s name will be familiar to you.  She worked with her husband, Richard DuFour for many years as international presenters and co-authored many books, with Rick and others, supporting collaboration as the focus of  school improvement- professional learning communities. They were part of the Solution Tree family, the company that I am also so fortunate to work with and, for many of us, Rick and Becky were the reasons that we came to be part of this journey. I first met the DuFours in 2004 when I was a superintendent.  I had the opportunity to invite them to  work with us in my district and later had the pleasure of working with both of them in places throughout Canada and the USA.  With Rick and Becky there were laughs, hugs and learning.

As a leader, I so appreciated that Becky was always willing to listen and help; she was just an email or phone call away.  As a friend, I warmed when I heard her voice, saw her name pop up in an email or best yet, was with her in person.   Her writing guided my work both as a principal and as a superintendent and since I became a road warrior, her teachings have helped me guide many others in ways that are so needed in our schools.  Laying the foundation for trusting, collaborative relationships that are focused on student learning and student achievement, understanding that there are “tights” that must lead to accountability in schools and knowing our collective purpose as we do this work are just a few of the many, many key messages that I carry with me every day from Becky’s teaching. She was often heard reminding us of our collective purpose and to ensure that we all shared ownership of students.

Most importantly though, in the past five years, I learned life lessons from the DuFours.  Rick was diagnosed with cancer and for several years, we all watched as he stayed true to who he was, a teacher first and foremost.  Becky loved and supported him with all of her heart. When Rick passed away in February, 2017, Becky, his rock, continued to be there for everyone.  I will never forget her warm welcome and embrace for me at the celebration service for Rick.  Becky just had a way of giving you what you needed, unconditionally and with so much love. She demonstrated for all of us, what it meant to live with a heart full of gratitude despite any difficult days.  Since Rick’s passing, I continued to be inspired by Becky.  Despite her grief she worked shoulder to shoulder with us, leading webinars and calls with schools, giving  advice and continuing to provide direction and leadership to the work of improving schools.

Lastly, Becky is the reason that I even started this blog.  In November, I had the pleasure of seeing Becky and talking with her about writing.  She knew that I was working on a draft of a book and she encouraged me to also consider this blog.  I will never forget what she said to me, “don’t over think it…just write.” She shared with me her experiences with her writing and how she had to work at staying focused and finding the time. And so, since November, that is exactly what my blogs have been.  Weekly writings that I felt inspired to put to paper and I tried really hard to just let them be… for Becky.  I will miss so many things about Becky, mostly, just knowing that she was out there, home with her family or on the road teaching others and that I might have more time with her.  Oh, and her hugs… she knew how to give you a hug that meant something and, most recently, I looked forward to her weekly emails and comments on my blog.  She told me she started every Saturday morning reading them and she always sent me a note.  Her last words to me every week were … “keep writing”.

So, this 26th blog is dedicated to you, Becky DuFour, author, incredibly strong educational leader, mentor, loving wife, sister, mother, grandmother and dear friend. My work will feel different for a long time without you.  Your legacy of passionately going forth to improve schools will live on in my heart.  And, for my family and friends, don’t be surprised if I hug you with a little more strength and hold on just a little longer… that will be Becky’s influence on me reminding me that the most important work we do is to love others. As her beautiful daughter Hannah said to us this week, she knew how much she was loved. And, Becky, we all knew how much we were loved because you showed it in every single thing that you said and did.  Thank you.

 

 

Lessons from the Road

As the school year comes to a close, I think about what I have learned this year in my travels.  From amazing people come lessons, with experiences I gain wisdom and from the places I visit, I grow as a person.  This twenty-five blog will be my last for a few weeks as I take a bit of a break for family and friends and a beautiful summer in eastern Canada.  So, for now… here are a few lessons from the school improvement road.

Lesson #1: When schools struggle to be successful with students, no one is happy- especially not the teachers or administrators.  If for one minute you think that they don’t really care, in other words, this is just a job to them, think again.  I was reminded over and over again this year that educators go to work every day wanting the very best for their students.  They just might not have all of the resources, expertise and know how of what to do next but, for the most part, they sure want to do better. They might be overwhelmed by the needs of the students and the work to be done but don’t take that as not wanting to be successful. If the will is there let’s work on the skill. With will and skill we can move mountains.

Lesson #2: Students can get really, really excited when they become better students.  I have told you about Willy and some of my other friends in schools who want to talk to me and share their love for learning.  You just have to understand how really awesome it  is when the students understand that they are responsible for their learning and share in the “what to do next”, the enthusiasm is contagious! The best part of my work is seeing this through the eyes of the students. It doesn’t get any better!

Lesson #3: I still have lots to learn.  In this 38th year as an educator (gasp…did I really type that??), I am learning in my schools every single day.  Some times the lessons are reminders of things I know but I am not applying anymore and sometimes, it is new learning. I still have to read, study and write to stay current in research and best practices and I know that this journey, for me, is not over.  The needs are real and I feel so blessed to be able to help.  I just know that I can not get stagnant in my own thinking and look for solutions to make a difference with each and every school.  If I can continue to work with integrity and honor the expertise in the schools, I know that I will have an impact.

Lesson #4:  It is fun, challenging, tough, exhausting, exciting, hard, interesting and crazy being a road warrior!  Staying in hotels every night, living out of a suitcase, flying on tons of flights, doing your shopping in airports and trying to find your way around new places in a rental car over and over again… well, it isn’t all glamorous.  I am learning, every year, to make the very best of every adventure.suitcases The highlights for me are the little things, the violin that I listened to in the Minneapolis airport one day that brought me to tears because the music was so beautiful and it reminded me of my family when I was growing up, running in to my dear friend Terri Klemm in Starbucks in South Dakota, seeing the exhausted Delta staff after Atlanta airport was basically shut down doing all they could for all of us with smiles on their faces, knowing actually where to buy fun souvenirs in the Detroit airport, having one meal this year with Lissa (maybe it was two, Lissa but I think we only saw each other once, sadly!), sharing crawfish with educators in Lafayette, Louisanna, seeing the Carole King musical, “Beautiful” with my good friend Jeanne in Fresno, California and keeping my head up and eyes wide open in airports in case I would run in to another road warrior (right Angela? It happened in the Little Rock airport!!!) Mostly, it was about meeting people who I can continue to learn from (Kathy, you taught me a ton about literacy) and just being with people who energize me.

So, in the wise (but maybe a little over used) words of Dr. Seuss, from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”: “All Alone! Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot. And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on. But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward un many frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.”

I am not sure if Dr. Seuss was writing about school improvement and the journey of continuous hard work that it takes to stay focused but I can say this… the educators who I work with hike on and on and face the problems head on. This is the way to stay true to improving schools and it has been an honor to be on the road with you this year.  And to my friends, the other road warriors, I think Dr. Seuss knew about us too when he wrote this!  See you all in August!

 

Graduation

In most of the schools and districts that I work in, this is graduation week.  In fact, several of the ceremonies are today!  A time for so many mixed emotions… celebrations, anxiety about next steps, good-byes, goals attained and for some families and students, it is a disappointing time. High school teachers and administrators are also feeling the emotions… pride fills the auditoriums as students cross the stage. Sadness is the reality for the students who were not able to be there with them. What really influences the student’s ability to get to this finish line?  Who has the impact?

At a recent elementary school visit, I had the opportunity to see the graduating seniors come back to their home school to be honored.  The high school marching band led the seniors through the hallways of the elementary school and the young students and their teachers were out in the hallways ready to clap and cheer on the seniors.  Some of the elementary teachers recognized seniors that they had taught and the energy and enthusiasm in the air was contagious! It was a celebration of reaching the ultimate goal of high school graduation. For many of these seniors, they were the first graduates in their families.  They are role models for both their family and others and this was truly obvious to me as the observer that morning.  I heard young students exclaim, “Look, JD is graduating!”, “There is my neighbor, I didn’t know that she was a graduate!”. And, as the teachers reminded me, this was a high school that has worked very hard to increase their graduate rate by diligently working to meet the needs of students and ensuring success. I learned that the high school has a motto, “whatever it takes”.  I like this focus.

I really appreciate that the high school is celebrating graduation with their neighboring schools. Besides providing an opportunity for the seniors to feel celebrated and honored, it is a real teachable moment for the elementary children.  In school improvement, we talk all the time about students owning their learning, setting goals and knowing what they have to do to achieve their goals.  And, in many high poverty neighborhoods, graduation is truly a difficult goal. graduation-hat Besides the obvious academic struggles, life happens. Staying focused on the goal of completing school is a challenge for many.  Seeing what can happen if you stay with it is an amazing visual for the younger students.

I was moved by the conversations that the elementary teachers were having. They were really sharing ownership of the students who they had taught. They were reminiscing about some events that were remembered and genuinely surprised to see some of the students who they knew had struggled.  There was disappointment when they recognized that some students were missing. It really struck me that, despite not being the high school teachers who had the pleasure of teaching these students the past few years, they still felt responsible for them.

Isn’t this what school improvement is really about?  Understanding that, beginning in early years and moving all the way up to the 12th grade, we are all responsible? That there are learning progressions, in other words, if kindergarten teachers are not prepared to ensure their students leave mastering what is required by the end of kindergarten then students go in to first grade with a deficit.  (I know the kindergarten teachers I work with and who are reading this are maybe a little tired of me telling them how important that they are to the big picture… but they sure are). That it isn’t just about the high school getting students to graduation, it is a community of educators, coaches, schools and families that get them there. It’s about shared responsibility for students all the way through, not just when they sit in front of us in class.

How do we create systems of ownership of all?  What should be the expectations of K-12, creating cultures of coherence?  In my experience, it takes strong leadership (district and school level) based on deep understanding that all grades impact the end goal; not just the state or provincial tested years.  That having high expectations for all students to leave a grade proficient in essential learnings, in other words, what really is expected at that grade level has to be the system norm.  For example, that writing in fifth grade shouldn’t look like writing in second grade and we definitely should not be ok with that. And, mostly, that students and teachers are well supported in meeting these grade level targets.

As we close another school year (and I know my friends in the northern states and Canada are not quite here yet), what have you done to contribute to a student’s success this year?  Do you know the impact that you have had? Have you stopped and celebrated your small wins and the bigger wins as well?  Can you see the need for all of us in education to share the ownership?  Is it fair for high school teachers to feel the overwhelming responsibility to have students graduate?  I know these questions might seem rhetorical to you, but please consider your contributions.  Next time, I will write my twenty-fifth blog on improving schools. It will be my last for a couple of months as a take a summer break with you.  Thank you for staying with me on this journey. I have loved your feedback and comments. See you next Saturday.

 

Holding the Pom Poms

What happens when teachers and school leaders believe in students?  When the students  are told over and over again, how valued they are and how important it is that they do their very best? When they know that we, the adults, really care about their success?  And how this unfolds when they have a cheerleader who leads the positive energy and enthusiasm?  And when this person is your principal?

Meet Dr. Sonya Coley, principal at Riley Elementary School in Macon, Georgia. Dr. C took on Riley this year and, I have to tell you, she cares. fullsizeoutput_a54 She can write the book on being a student’s biggest cheerleader and that is how she started the year off…with her pom poms and her t-shirt that says believe in the blue and gold… she really does!
I have visited the school several times this year and during every visit, at least once, a student has stopped  Dr. Coley to tell her about their work… how they are improving, what they are working on and how many books they are now reading.  Now, to many of you, this might not sound like a big deal but for those of you who work in low performing schools and if you have followed this blog for a while, you have to be seeing the continuous pattern of school improvement. It has to start with relationships and building a community of learners.

There is a down side to caring so much and having high expectations. Sometimes we are disappointed.  That is what I saw this week.  Despite Dr. Coley’s focus on the right work and her teachers consistent practices to close the achievement gap at the school, when they received preliminary state assessment data, they still had many, many students not working at grade level.  And, as Dr. Coley said, it feels like they failed.  She told me about teachers crying when they saw the scores and she teared up with me as we talked about it.

As her school improvement coach, it was time for me to help her look at the entire year-answering questions about where they started, what they focused on and finally, what the data was saying about growth.  The thing is, when students are many grade levels behind, one year of growth is not good enough. To get this to double and triple and so on… it really does take an intensive focus on being sure we are meeting  needs -student by student/skill by skill. Through reflection, Dr. C recognized the work that she and her staff have done to create a safe and positive school learning culture. She talked to me about the students who show pride in meeting their goals and that she sees so many positive adult and student relationships in the building.  She also knows that they have positive growth towards academic goals even if it isn’t quite where she wants it yet. She has led professional learning and collaboration with her teachers and instructional practices are improving.  I am proud of her.  The students and teachers need her at that school.

Across town at MLK Jr., I also had a funny reminder of this same theme- how important it is to get students excited about their learning.. you know really excited.  What does it look like when you see it and hear it? Out of the mouth of babes… let me tell you a little more about it.

How do we collect evidence on student ownership of their learning?  How do we know an academic culture is moving forward? Could it be as simple as being in the bus yard as they are getting on or off the bus?  Letting the students do the talking?  I think this is the best “soft data” that we can collect.  When the students are running up to their administrators and teachers, truly excited and wanting to talk (maybe all at once) about how well they did on something that they have been assessed on?  Would this be reliable data?  How about when a little boy is truly excited, I mean really excited to tell us all… “I growed, I growed!!!”. Ok, he may not have the vocabulary correct (yet) and there is obviously more work to do but it really did my heart good (and the teachers) to hear and see this student so excited about his progress.  As one administrator said to me this week, “It makes me feel so good to know the students care.”

Building this learning culture of pride in the school and academics is a winning first step in improving your school. I have seen, time and time again, students will rise to the occasion when they know what is expected.  Let’s face it, we all go to work (and school) wanting to do our best.  We just don’t always know how to do it or if it really matters to someone!   Once we know and apply ourselves, we too can say “we growed!” See you next Saturday.

 

Commitments

What does it mean to make a personal commitment?  To say, out loud, to others, or reflectively to ourselves,  what we are going to do… to honor others with our promise, our integrity, to live by our vision and values. In both personal and professional lives, we make promises to ourselves and to others. And, as we all know, a commitment is just that until we match our actions, on a consistent basis, with what we declared.  We get in to patterns, good or bad.  Habits, or as I often hear in schools, “it is just the way it is here”, are tough cycles to break.  And, that is what school improvement is about…not accepting the status quo and making commitments to change what is needed for students.  In this twenty-second blog I want to take you on the road with me to two schools that I visited this week. Both are led by principals who truly understand the need to personally commit to leading change. And… I will tell you a story about how hard it was to get a staff to buy in to living by their personal commitments and what happened when they didn’t…

Let’s start with Fox Elementary School in Columbus, Georgia.  You may remember this school from a December blog when I wrote about their fun holiday activity, “An Island of Misfits”.  The school is led by Dr. Yvette Scarborough and this year ends her third year as principal and my fourth year supporting this school. On Tuesday, I had one of the best days I have had as a school improvement consultant.  With Dr. Yvette and others, we spent the entire day reflecting on progress and determining the current reality of the school. They faced the facts of where they were with student achievement, with instructional practices, how the teachers were developing their skills collaboratively,  what gains had been made in improving the overall learning culture of the school and what parent and community partnerships were developing. We used a rubric to evaluate all aspects of their work and compared this to what we had determined to be the current reality a year ago.

Now, as we all know, when we make commitments (even just to ourselves), following through can be difficult.  Taking time to reflect and actually see where you are can led to a tough reality- facing the brutal facts.  It isn’t the easiest thing to admit to ourselves and others that we didn’t do what we said we would do.  The good news at Fox this past week was that we had so much evidence of follow through and actions that matched the commitments made a year ago. And, what really is worth writing about is the fact that in the areas that we did not see growth, Dr. Yvette and her team admitted what they did or didn’t do and what had to happen next. There was no blame or defensiveness, it was just honest reflection and, in my opinion, continuous improvement doesn’t get much better than this.

Unfortunately, commitments do not always lead to appropriate actions.  A staff I worked with at one time did not believe in the students or the collaborative work that had to be done.  They were not interested in truly determining what was essential for students to know and be able to do and they sure did not want to work together to evaluate students or decide next steps to meet the student needs.  They met as teams when I was on site out of compliance for what we were doing but they were not committed.  commitment (1)At one point, I had a break through with them (well, I thought I did!).  I had presented them with the results of a comprehensive needs assessment and we had a frank conversation about the needs of the students.  We talked a long time about how important their role was and what could be done to support the students.  We ended the day with each of them making personal commitment statements of what they would do. Here are a few of the things that they said:

  • I will work harder to be more optimistic and positive
  • I will provide more engaging lessons for my students
  • I will push my students to work at their level and challenge them
  • I plan to work on academic rigor to teach the standards
  • I will use more formative practices in my classroom
  • I will celebrate student progress- no matter how small

These statements (and others) gave me hope that this staff could work together to improve their school and make things better for their students.  But, I was wrong.  Over time, they did not follow through on their personal commitment statements and they did not change their actions.  When I was on site, they continued to blame the students for the lack of improvement. (I remember, at one point, being a little frustrated with them and wanting to tell them that the parents were not keeping the smart children home under the bed… these students are the ones that we have to work with and deserve our best efforts.) In the end, most of these teachers moved on to other schools and the current staff at this school is now more comfortable with the necessary work and their belief in the ability of the students.

Lastly, I want to tell you about my visit with Principal Amy Wohler at Jordan High School. Ms. Wohler became principal of this school in 2016 and immediately made a personal commitment to build trusting, respectful relationships so that students and staff  would feel valued. She felt that this was her leadership strength and as a new administrator, she wanted to work from her strengths.  We also spent a day this week reflecting on the progress and the current reality of the school and really looked back on the needs we had identified and the goals that we had set together. Principal Amy is the first to admit that the instruction and collaborative practices are not as strong yet as she had hoped that they would be but she does feel that she has led and contributed to a stronger, more positive learning environment for students.  She believes that both adults and students know that they are valued and that there is a stronger sense of belief in the strengths of the students and what they can achieve.  For me, this was a day with mixed emotions… a strong foundation is built and there is still so much to do at this school.  However, Ms. Wohler is moving out-of-state for personal reasons and will no longer be leading the school.  Her ability to lead with personal integrity and pride will be missed.  Her understanding of what it takes to build trust and hope in others is still needed at the school.  She has led by example and this will be her legacy.  The staff and students, hopefully, can follow in her lead. The will need to personally commit to maintaining what areas that they have improved on and being prepared to focus on the next steps for growth.

As I leave you this week I ask you to reflect on your own personal and professional commitments. What have you said that you were going to do? What actually are you doing? Is there alignment or is this a good time to reconsider, make adjustments and move forward? Thanks for being here. See you next Saturday.