Saturday, January 2, 2016

#Oneword2016...Together

A challenge has been put forth by many in my PLN- What is the one word that will be your focus for the calendar year?  There was even this video of an interview of Jon Gordon, co-author of One Word, on the Today Show shared by Brenda Vatthauer (@PrincipalMN).  After much thought, a list, and some time to just reflect on the past year, my one word is...TOGETHER.

Years ago, I was a high school and middle school coach.  As a coach, I tried my best to live by the idea of TEAM (Together Everyone Accomplishes More).
(image from www.fotolia.com)

We had successes and failures as a team, tried to improve on our successes, learned from our failures, and made a plan to move forward as a better team.  And it all starts with the word TOGETHER, so that's where I got my one word for this year.

(image from www.fearandhope.org.uk)

When you get down to it, we have to do things together to get any better.  As a principal, I am the only one in my role in our school.  There are no other principals or assistant principals so I rely on all of the people in our school every day to do what is best for students.  Our educators need to work together to accomplish great things for our students and each other.  Together we need to do three things to be the best for our students.  We need to listen to one another, to our students, and to our families.  We need to learn with one another.  We need to take supported risks to try things that will make the learning of our students more relevant, impactful, and engaging.  Together we can do all of these things so much better than we can do them alone.  Here are some school examples.

Together as a school with families
This is a new focus for me due to being a part of #ptchat and reading the book Beyond the Bake Sale.  We started a book chat using Beyond the Bake Sale with families and staff to better understand the ways that we can become more of a partnership school.  Our discussions have been honest, eye opening, and reaffirming.  But best of all, we are learning together about ways to make our school a better place to learn for our students, staff, and families.  We have a strong PTO that has supported many innovative teacher grants and are beginning a student grant cycle.  We have strong support from our families, but I'd still like to see this become stronger.

Together as students with students
Due to our use of Google Apps For Education, our students are able to learn from each other even when they aren't in school.  But students also learn from each other without the use of technology.  They meet face to face in class and outside of school, too.  We need to continue to teach our students how to collaborate with one another, and not just compete with one another, both online and in person.

Together as staff with students
The is one of the most underrated and overlooked aspects of our schools.  Our students have so much to offer us.  Have you ever sat down with a student to learn from them?  And I'm not talking about a project that students are required to do in class.  I'm talking about sitting down to really listen to a student as they talk about a hobby or passion.  The students so often listen to us but do we make the time to listen to them.  We need to find a way to make the time.  Our students deserve it.

Together as administration with teaching staff
I happen to be very lucky to be a part of a building leadership team that is honest with one another, shares successes and struggles, and comes together to provide solutions to issues in our school.  It is a varied group of educators who are focused on making our school the best that it can possibly be.  We grow together at each meeting.  But the building leadership team isn't the only place for me to work together with teaching staff.  We have weekly grade level meetings to discuss students and our school.  I meet with individual staff members in their room or in my office.  We join together for professional development, curriculum, and social events.

Together as staff with staff
There is so much we can learn from one another.  We can learn about our students.  We can learn about content.  We can learn about pedagogy.  We can learn about each other.  It is important to set time to allow this to happen.  It might occur during common planning time, before school, after school, during inservice days, or in some other creative ways.  In Merton we have the opportunity once a month to spend time together that doesn't impact the school start time while providing 75 minutes of time for staff to learn together.  Years ago I used the term "coopetition", a blending of cooperation and competition.  If we all want to get better, we need to work together and learn from one another.

I would be remiss if I didn't include ways that I need to be "together" with my family.  I was fortunate to spend five full days with my family in Mexico over Winter Break.  We swam in the ocean, swam in the pool, laid in the sun, read a little bit, and played some volleyball.  But the best part was sitting down and eating nearly every meal together.  There was limited use of personal devices, except for a multitude of pictures.  But I need to be much better with this together aspect of my life.  I need to unplug and be there physically and emotionally, without distraction, to support my wife and daughter in any way that I can.

No one can do anything alone.  There is a spouse to help raise a family.  There is a coach for an athlete.  There is a writer for an actor.  And the examples can go on forever.  Together everyone accomplishes more, and it all starts with TOGETHER.