Friday, December 18, 2015

The Ahah Moments

In July of this year I began to write a new chapter in my story.  If you've read "Intentionally New" in my blog you're aware of how this all unfolded.  So here we are, the last day of the first semester and it's time for reflection.  A friend asked me the other day, "What was your big ahah?"  There's more than one, so here goes:

Age is Mostly Irrelevant
I say mostly because sometimes my knees don't like the position I put them in, or the energy level isn't quite what it used to be, but really age is pretty much irrelevant.  I knew that intellectually, or I wouldn't have decided to take on a big career change at my age.  What I discovered, though, was that I kept feeling like I should apologize for coming to the dance so late.  I kept feeling like an outlier, and not in a good way.  But at some point that changed.  I don't remember a specific point in time in which I laid that to rest. I just know that now it doesn't matter to me.

Leadership Looks Different
At my former campus I was on the leadership team for many years, first as a team leader and later as an Instructional Specialist.  Although I was considered a leader on my campus, I was still at the same level as everyone else.  It took me awhile to realize that I still considered myself on par with my colleagues, but they saw me as the boss.  It has taken awhile to adjust that garment.  I put it on the first day I took the job, but I kept fidgeting with the layers and shifting it around until it became comfortable.  It fits well now, even though it still has the look and smell of newness.

Relationships Change
Do you remember what it was like to have your own classroom and live and breathe with those same kids for an entire school year?  You build relationship with them, laugh with them, grow with them and guide them in a unique way.  As an administrator I've learned they see me differently and I can't interact with them the way I would have with my own kiddos.  You have to say things in a softer way because they only see you in the hall.  You haven't built a relationship that allows you to be forceful when necessary.  Relationships with students and parents are different now and I have to pay attention to the rules in this dynamic.

Niceness and Kindness are not the Same Thing
If I'm nice it's sort of about me making myself look good.  If I'm kind there's a new layer on top of that.  Kindness means I'm doing for the staff that which benefits them.  I'm telling them the truth and extending grace because it's about wanting to grow them.  It's not about making myself look good.  Being nice is fine and I certainly don't aspire to the opposite of that, but my true desire is to develop capacity in others and help them find their purpose.  

Fun and Fear
I think the biggest aha is that fear and fun can coexist.  Shaking up my life in a pretty profound way, tackling something completely out of my wheelhouse has stirred up fears. Let's face it - going with the flow just isn't scary.  It's safe.  It's easy.  And - it's boring!  In spite of the times I had no clue what I was doing and was making mistakes pretty much on a regular basis, I have to say I haven't had this much fun in a long time.  I wake up every morning excited about what the day will bring.  I leave school every day glad beyond words that I took the leap.  

Eleanor Roosevelt said to do one thing each day that scares you.  Done!  And so worth it!

Merry Christmas 2015 and on to great things in 2016!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Motivation is Like Bathing

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of giving students purpose. It sounds like a really great idea, but how do you actually convince a child that things can be different than they are?  So many things are outside the control of a child.  They can't control who their parents are.  They can't control the decisions the adults in their lives make.  They can't control where they live or where they go to school or pretty much anything in their lives.  How do we give students some power in their lives?  How can we instill in them the thought that they can achieve great things?  

Motivation can be defined as the process of giving someone a reason for doing something; a force or influence that causes someone to do something.  We tend to motivate kids by consequences:  if you don't do your work.....if you don't turn this in.....if you don't pass this test.....  Here's a crazy idea!  What if we motivated kids by helping them see what was in it for them?  What if they began to see the value in hard work, grit, and determination because of the high it gives them when they succeed?  It's sort of like me and Canva.  I decided to start an edchat for beginning administrators and wanted to post a question a week using nice graphics and design.  Some of my AP friends introduced me to and I tried it several times.  I kept reading about it, and watching tutorials, and doing it wrong, and redesigning and doing it right, and I finally got it!  I was sitting in my chair at home and when I finally got it right I gave a whoop and a big fist pump and felt like I had just crossed the finish line at the Olympics!  There was no one in the room with me - just me and my desire to conquer this digital tool.  I was motivated and when I got it right the first time I was on cloud nine!

The Payoff
So what did that do for me and what is the payoff for students when we effectively motivate them to overcome obstacles?
1. My confidence grew.  I suddenly believed I could do something I had no prior knowledge about or frame of reference for.  The same will happen with our students.
2.  My courage grew.  I'm more willing to try something even more difficult or scary next time.  Our students will not let fear stop them from exploring the unknown.
3.  My awareness of my own personal power grew.  I realized, once again, that I was capable and could learn things that seemed unapproachable to me.  Our students need to know that things are not off limits just because they have never done them before. They'll be much more inclined to try it.

The Expiration Date
Truly, there's no expiration date on motivation.  I've said this before, but each time I try something new I have to talk myself into it.  I'm at the place in my life, as an adult, that I can talk myself into lots of new experiences.  I've learned, like Scaredy Squirrel, that nothing really bad is going to happen in the unknown today.  Our kids are just now learning this and it's our job to be their motivator, their cheerleader, their defense, a soft place to land when they fall, and a hand to lift them up so they'll try again.  It's a daily endeavor, but one well worth the doing.  They're really just little versions of us with good days and bad days, highs and lows, discouragements and enthusiasms.  It's up to us to remind them they can do and achieve and grow and become and to do that as often as it takes to help them see how it feels to overcome.  

Zig Ziglar said, "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily."