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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Only Getting Started

As educators, we are always “Only getting started” … It doesn’t matter the grade, subject, or time of year - from kinder to twelfth the same rule always applies...we are only getting started.

There is often a thought in education that everything happens on a yearly cycle… In fact, the story problem looks something like this: Child X needs to learn amount Y by the end of the year. If Child X is able to learn Y before the state test than Child X was successful. Then, the next year, Child W needs to learn the same amount Y by the end of the year...and so on…sound familiar?

There is a fallacy in this thinking. Why? Because it implies the job is done once the test is over...but here is what I know, what all good teachers and school leaders know...we are never done teaching, never done moving forward, never done learning - because we are always only getting started.

Now don’t get me wrong (amazing grammatical line) - I am not saying that we are always starting over, always discounting the progress made, always having to hit the reset button - always getting started doesn’t mean from the beginning...but it does mean the journey is one where we are always looking ahead…

This theory works beautifully when we know all students learn differently. Pick a school, any school. Pick a class, any class, and I promise you this...not every child is or needs the same. The challenge of education is that every child needs to learn, yet no two students are the same.

The magic of always getting started goes something like this….Eric is a student in Mr. Pelosi’s class. Eric has struggled with division as long as he can remember. 32 divided by 8 equals...who cares? Eric would always shout out comments in class like, “When are we ever going to need this? Why does this even matter?” But like all great teachers do, Mr. Pelosi pressed on, never gave up...and then one day, something clicked, something happened, and Eric could divide.

What was Mr. Pelosi’s response? Was it...Way to go, you did it, you are all done? - Nope, it was simply this…”I knew you could, now get ready, because we are only getting started.”

For many, this is a mindset shift - after all, the idea of only getting started could be viewed negatively… One could read into a statement like that and assume I am discounting all the progress made, all the hard work from the past, all the effort put in...that of course couldn’t be further from the truth.

The journey of learning takes place on a long road, full of rocky moments, exciting stories and steep hills. Rarely is it perfect, rarely is it easy...but it is always worth it...and no matter how far you go or how much you learn, remember are only getting started.

Monday, September 7, 2015

First Two Weeks

We are two weeks in - two weeks into the school year. Ten days of planning instruction, building relationships, implementing routines, and getting to know our students.

As the year begins, as I walk the hallways, peek into classrooms and sit in planning meetings...I can’t help but take note of how much I love my teachers and staff members. There is an excitement in the air, a hint of what’s to come, and a feeling that something amazing could happen at any moment.

It is clear we have a building filled with educators who love their children, are willing to work painfully hard preparing for each day, and all share a willingness to collaboratively reflect on the process of ensuring every child receives the best education possible.

I left the classroom four years ago, this will be my fifth year away - I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss it, because I do, almost every day. To me, there was nothing more exciting than the first two weeks… Meeting my students for the first time, creating a first impression that would last the entire year. As I walk the hallways I see teacher after teacher creating a memorable first impression, one built on love and respect.

For most administrators, most district leaders, and instructional specialists...leaving the classroom is about hoping to make a larger impact. I was no different, I wanted to be part of something larger than myself, work hard to help the greater good, support teachers, and ensure students were successful. I love being a principal, I love coming in each day hoping to make a difference, hoping to serve all those in need, and hoping to learn something new around every corner…

But...there is something about the first two weeks of school that always gets to me. I miss the overwhelming feeling of nervousness as I prepared for that first day. I miss looking over my lesson plans to ensure what my students experienced for the first time would be memorable. I miss trying to imprint each student's name into my brain before lunch. I miss planning with my team, welcoming new families, and trying to identify the need of each student who walked in the door.

There is nothing like being a teacher. It is hard, it takes time, it is exhausting, emotionally draining, and a daily challenge. Yet...I miss it.

The first two weeks are a wonderful time of year - So, to all teachers completing their first two weeks of the school year let me just share this: Enjoy these moments, cherish the excitement of the first few days, and embrace the difference you are making...because I promise, you will miss these days when you are no longer teaching.