Monday, July 7, 2014

Lessons in Resilience and Believing

Excitement and tension are palpable as we prepare to launch another year. As a district in Iowa, we are fortunate to have been awarded funding to implement a Teacher Leader System that will be implemented starting this month. Coupled with that, the entire district will have one hour of weekly professional learning time - it's a first for us. Our community and our school board have thrown their support behind this work and we are eager to move forward. What an incredible opportunity to impact adult learning and ultimately, student learning! That's where the excitement... and the tension come in.

I've decided to adopt the attitude and words of one of my co-workers, a teacher, in order to make the most of this change. This teacher has since moved from our district, but I will long remember the important lessons she taught. During her initial interview, we discovered she had a passion for students and their education, a curious mind, a love of learning, and unfailing optimism. And then she proved it to her students, to parents/guardians, to colleagues, and to me over and over again. Through successes and failures, she persisted.  (Readers, please know that the teachers and other staff members I am privileged to work with are amazing; I've learned from each of them. This post simply highlights one.)

A favorite quote from this teacher came out of a conversation that took place between her first and second year. When I shared that I was assigning her to teach another grade level she looked directly into my eyes, smiled, and confidently, calmly and joyfully stated, "I can do that!" And then she got to work, eating that watermelon one bite at a time (Thanks, @coolcatteacher and @mattmilller). Most importantly she remained focused on her students and their learning. She also stayed committed to a growth mindset.

So that's my mantra, "I can do that!" Big change? Check. Ambiguity? Check. Risk? Check. As I view the current context through this teacher's perspective, I am assured that given a steadfast focus on students' learning, the gift of teacher leaders and time to collaborate we can influence needed changes for the children and community we serve.

Let's get after it!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Simple Vision for Education

This was the scene in front of me as I left a baseball game last weekend (Good day for the White Sox. Bad day for the Tigers.)  At first I wasn't making sense of the messages on the t-shirts in front of me.  I think it's because I was looking at the people in isolation.  As I took time to scan the crowd the message took shape. A vision for education that I could relate to was elegantly communicated by this group of youth and adults,

"I inspire. I am the future. I lead. I motivate."  

Imagine the possibilities if the collective identity of a school or a district or a nation fully embraced these perspectives and promises!  As I gear up for a new school year it's tempting to get caught up in the frenzy of getting things done for my own sake and peace of mind. But I think I'll keep this photo close at hand to help me remember what's truly important... students, the caring adults in their lives, and nurturing healthy relationships that bring us closer to realizing this simple vision for education.

Perhaps you'll consider leaving a comment about the message you'd wear on the back of your t-shirt.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Celebrating Generosity

Imagine my delight upon opening a letter from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and finding a generous $3000.00 donation to Bryant School from Jim and Marita Theisen of Theisen's Home, Farm and Auto!  A Bryant leadership team will collaboratively work on determining how the funds can best help us realize the mission of our School.  We are so fortunate to have many community partners who value the role public education plays in the lives of our students and their families.

Over the course of a thirty-year career my experiences with both individuals and organizations in the Dubuque area have repeatedly reinforced the message that our community cares about children and educators.  I think it speaks volumes about the spirit of collaboration and support in Dubuque and drives me to remain committed and engaged in finding new and better ways to prepare youth for their futures.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Case for Prop Roots

Headed to school in a bit to meet with district tech people, Mrs. Hermsen (Bryant's technology coach) and Mr. Ernst (head custodian).  As the district moves forward with installing updated technology labs in every building we are finalizing details on Bryant's lab today!  I'm very excited about the ways the updated lab will support teaching and learning and proud to serve in a district that is firmly committed to developing 21st Century citiziens.

Just wrapped up some work for an eCourse I'm taking, Educational Leadership in the Digital Age.  The format is online so I'm connecting with educators from around the world and learning so much.  We were challenged to use an image along with six words to communicate our vision for teaching and learning.  Here's my 6-Word Memoir.  Despite being born and raised in Iowa I didn't know about prop roots until a few years ago.  It's really a  very cool concept.  According to, "Most corn plants develop prop root, extra roots that form above ground and eventually penetrate the soil.  These help to anchor the heavy plant."

That's how I see my role as an educator and as a parent.  Being a prop root for our children may not be glamorous, but it's essential to their growth and development and extremely rewarding.  Please consider sharing your own 6-Word Memoir that represents your vision, or perhaps you'll leave a comment about mine.