Friday, August 23, 2013

Trust- An example of trust lost and trust gained

Trust is something that we all work to earn.  Once it is lost, it is difficult, if not impossible, to earn back.  Trust is not something that can be developed unless you first have developed a relationship.  Without a relationship there can be no trust.
This week there were two glaring examples of the impact of trust on specific situations.  One worked out better than could be expected.  One took a turn for the worse.  The direction of these situations was determined by the trust that the individual had developed with the people involved.
Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper in an Atlanta area school, gained the trust of an armed gunman and averted what could have been a very deadly situation.  She was calm throughout the ordeal and gained the trust of the gunman by being personable and making a real connection.  She was the right person for this situation.  Listening to the 911 call I was amazed by her calm demeanor and one of her comments really resonated with me- "Sweetie.  Everything's going to be OK."  The trust that Ms. Tuff developed in such a short time with a mentally unstable individual is remarkable.  This level of trust and caring is something that we should all model as educators.  I challenge all educators to develop relationships with our students, families, and each other so that we positively impact their lives.
Ryan Braun, leftfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, lost the trust of baseball fans in Milwaukee and throughout Major League Baseball.  The Most Valuable Player in 2011, Mr. Braun denied the use of performance enhancing drugs and along the way threw a number of his teammates and others under the bus.  He was believable in a news conference during Spring Training in 2012 stating that he had never put anything illegal in his body.  We now know that he lied about his cheating ways and recently apologized in a written statement.  I live in the Milwaukee area and I'm a big fan of the Brewers.  I have a naivete about me and want to believe everything that people say to me.  When it is clear that someone is not truthful I lose trust in them.  I have now lost the trust I once had in Mr. Braun.
I do not know Ms. Tuff or Mr. Braun but I have learned something from each of them.  Ms. Tuff was able to build trust with a mentally unstable stranger and was instrumental in keeping school children and staff safe.  She was personable, caring, calm, and nurturing.  Ms. Tuff will remain a trusted member of her community because of her actions this week.  Mr. Braun lost the trust of many because of his lies.  He was deceitful, arrogant, and self-centered.  Mr. Braun will have a difficult if not impossible time regaining the trust of his family, friends, and fans.
My hope is that all of us as educators will build trust with our students, families, and each other.  Let's learn a lesson from Ms. Tuff and positively impact our students each and every day so that we can tell them, "Sweetie.  Everything is going to be OK."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My philosophy of education #SAVMP

I have been contemplating this blog about my philosophy of education all weekend and it has come down to two acronyms that I have shared with the students, staff, and families of Merton.  The two acronyms are BEST and PRIDE.  The first I read in an education magazine during the summer of the year before I began as the principal.  The second I heard when Lou Holtz, at the time an ESPN College Game Day host, was discussing a pregame talk he would have with his team before a big game.  I keep both of these acronyms in my thoughts when making decisions that will impact students, staff, and families.
BEST stands for Believe, Encourage, Share, and Trust.  Each of these words have power and meaning for students, staff, and parents.

  • Believe- As educators and leaders, we need to believe in our students, our staff, and our families.  I believe that each of our students wants to learn and is willing to give their best effort.  We just need to find out what connections we can make to help this happen.  I believe that our staff wants our students to learn each and every day and that they will do their best to make this come true.  I believe that our families want the best possible education for their children.
  • Encourage- As educators and leaders, we need to encourage our students, our staff, and our families.  I believe that we need to encourage risk taking in our students and staff so that they can learn about new topics and topics that interest them.  I believe we need to encourage our families to be involved in our school, whether it is to volunteer, to attend conferences, to attend after school events, or to stop in and speak with us about the direction of our school or the education we are providing.
  • Share- As educators and leaders, we need to share with our students, our staff, and our families.  I believe we need to share personal stories of success and defeat with our students so that they can learn about us.  I believe we need to share as a staff our lessons, our struggles, and our successes.  One of our teachers, Brian Fleischman, once said, "We are our best resource."  If we don't share, we are unable to learn from one another.  I believe that we need to share with our families the successes of our students and staff, the changes in our schools, and the opportunities that we provide our students each and every day.
  • Trust- As educators and leaders, we need to trust our students, our staff, and our families.  I believe that we need to trust that our students are making sound decisions and are doing what they believe is the best for them.  I believe we need to trust that our staff is doing everything that they can for our students, our families, and each other.  I believe that we need to trust that our families only wants what is best for their children.  This is the most important of the four words in BEST because once we lose the trust of our students, staff, or families, it is difficult to regain trust to its previous level.
PRIDE stands for Personal Responsibility In Daily Excellence.  As students, educators, and leaders, we must put our best foot forward each and every day.  We only have one opportunity for success each day and we owe it to our students and families to give it our best.
Ultimately if we do our best and have pride in what we do, everyone in every school will learn to the best of their ability.
I welcome your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why do I lead and why am I an educator?

Thanks to George Couros (@gcouros) for setting up a great opportunity for administrators to connect.  You can follow our journey on twitter at #SAVMP (School Admin Virtual Mentor Program).  George posted two questions- "Why do I lead?" and "Why am I an educator?"- for us all in his opening SAVMP blog.  I attempted to write this blog by separating the two questions but I found that to be quite difficult.  I think that leaders are educators and educators are leaders.
Case in point- I am with six colleagues (another principal and five classroom teachers) this week at the Teachers College in New York City learning more about the Writer's Workshop.  We learned a lot the first day and had a chance to share our thoughts at lunch, on the subway, at dinner, and on a walk that evening to find a good place for ice cream.  Educators are always learning and I love to learn, not in isolation, but with others.  We are also charged with returning to our district and sharing what we learned.  We will be the leaders for the staff, sharing what we have learned, answering questions, and providing support.  Now back to the questions.
"Why do I lead?"  I lead because I have been given opportunities throughout my career as an educator.  The administrators that I worked with, whether as a teacher or coach, saw something in me and fostered my growth.  I hope that I have been able to do the same for the great teachers I have worked with in my time as an assistant principal and principal.  I lead to help develop well-rounded students and staff.  I lead to help others have a positive impact on students.  I don't have all of the answers, but I'll let people know that we will work together to find the answers.
"Why am I an educator?"  I am an educator because I am a learner.  I want to reach as many students as I can.  I want to help prepare our students for a future we don't even know.
Why do I lead and why am I an educator?  It's just who I am.