Thursday, December 17, 2015

The 3 C's to being an effective leader

What does it take to be an effective leader?  Countless articles and Twitter chats explore this topic daily.  Why?  Because those of us who have dedicated ourselves to improving ourselves and our organizations every day seek the most effective strategies to achieving excellence in ourselves and our work.

As a building principal the past 9 years and a high school administrator for the last 15, and now as a passionate educational coach,  I, too, have been, and will continue to be on this journey of leadership learning and discovery.

How do we ensure we are the best leaders we can be, as well as empower others in leadership?

The 3 C's.

We must each be a highly effective communicator, catalyst and cheerleader.

Communicator:  We must be the most effective communicators in our organizations with all key stakeholders.  Sounds simple?  This may be the most difficult of all tasks of a leader.  If you are a principal of a high school of 1600 students, you most likely also have a staff of at least 150 and well over 3000 parents and extended family.  You also may have a district with multiple high schools or buildings and a central office with whom to also communicate.

Every day you have key stakeholders with whom to communicate.  Do you?  Is every staff member in your building clear about the day, the week and upcoming events and goals?  Is every student?  Every parent? Every other administrator that needs to know?

What about the means of communication?  On any given day, you will need to communicate in person, through email or enews, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with your stakeholders, not to mention your PLN, and through handwritten notes and letters.

The Why?  Dedicate a portion of every day to communication with all key stakeholders.  Principals and leaders determine the culture and climate fr their buildings/organizations and realize their mission/vision in every communication and interaction you have each day.  Students, parents and staff may remember that one interaction with you for the rest of their lives.  A powerful opportunity.  Don't miss it by not making time for it.


Leaders MUST be the catalysts for the change every building and organization needs.  To be a catalyst in education you must be the best learner in the building.  Read widely all of the best educational research you can find.  Be a student of education in order to be a leader.

Henry Ford once said that if he had asked everyone what they wanted they would say a faster horse.  Henry Ford had a vision that no one else and revolutionized lives.  Do you? Principals have the power to revolutionize lives every day for the better.  Are you working on actualizing your vision every day with your key stakeholders.  By reading, attending workshops and institutes, immersing yourself in a PLN and participating in Twitter chats with other like professionals, you can become an expert in professional learning community work, formative assessment, a focus on learning, visible learning and a number of other best instructional practices that will improve your building.

Then collaborate with other administrators, teacher-leaders, students, parents and staff to develop timelines and action steps.  But the catalyst has to be you.  In science a catalyst is a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.  Be the change you wish to see.  Accelerate the learning while remaining strong in the process.  Leading without being a catalyst is not leading at all.


At first glance this one may be a puzzler.  But truly, it doesn't matter how well you communicate or how good your vision and action steps are if you are not a cheerleader for your your students, parents, staff and every aspect of your building.  Cheerleaders are visible and enthusiastic supporters of teams no matter how big or small they are or what the score is.  When the team is down by 5 touchdowns the cheerleaders don't pack it in and go home. Rain?-- let it pour and the cheerleaders are still smiling and still cheering.

And that needs to be you.  No matter how bad the day is, how dismal the funding is, how badly the levy fails, you need to stand at your front door every morning and smiling broadly, greet each student who comes in.  You need to do the same thing for your secretaries, custodians, cooks and teachers, and have ongoing positive interactions with every stakeholder you encounter.  If you are smiling on the outside, even though the stress of running a high school is killing you on the inside on that day, then that is what your students and staff will remember.

Attend every school event you can.  Drive to the mock trial competition at the courthouse as well as to the basketball game.  Go to every play and every concert, sit down with your students at their lunch tables, and sit with the parents at away sporting events.  Why? Because an important part of being a leader is being all in, every day, with every member of your school family.

Actively engage every school day at every school event with every person you can.  Be a cheerleader for your school-- it will show that you care about every person, and that is one of the most important roles a leader has.

Being a leader today in education is not easy, but it is the best job in the world.  By being effective communicators, catalysts and cheerleaders, we can enhance learning for every student, every day, and change lives. And very few people get to do that for a career.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

100% Can and Should Be the Goal

Education in the US has undergone tremendous changes in the last 5 years.  Two significant ones are the greater accountability for teachers for student learning and the implementation of Common Core.  Having been a high school administrator for the last 15 years and high school principal for the last 9 prior to this year, I have led and been involved in a number of discussions on these changes.

One common theme in the discussion to some of this educational reform from educators is that we should not be expected to adopt a business model because we are educators.  Some educators have felt that accountability is fine for businesses who can seemingly control their factors, but we should not be expected to adopt such rigorous reform that includes accountability standards for teachers, administrators, buildings and districts.

As a 30-year public educator, both as a high school and middle school teacher and as a high school administrator, I certainly understand some of the concerns, including educators being held accountable for assessments for which the state government has provided little time or support for administration and that teachers have never seen.

It is difficult to prepare students for assessments with which educators have very little experience. And these assessments are extremely arduous for special education students and English language learners who are not starting on an even playing field.  We certainly need to re-look at the graduation requirements for these students and mandated expectations.

But I also believe that we are responsible for a lack of establishing our own accountability for student learning for much of my career.  For too long, schools and teachers taught what they liked to teach with little or no focus or accountability to student learning.

I also believe that our educational systems have been plagued by low standards and expectations of our work, and that we should adopt much more rigorous expectations and goals, just as other professionals have for years.

The business world's ability to align staff and whole organizations to very high standards and a common mission and vision is what  educators and schools can and should emulate.  Our students deserve it, just as consumers of business organizations deserve it. A life-changing event in our family illustrates our appreciation for an organization with extremely high expectations for its consumers-- patients.

Almost two years ago my husband suffered a debilitating medical condition, a detached retina.  He had suffered no injury and had no precursors or warning.  One morning he woke up and an hour later his retina detached in his right eye.

Twenty-four hours later we were in emergency surgery which ended with a daunting post-surgery regimen.  He had to keep his head down for 24 hours a day for two straight weeks.  After the surgeon reattaches the retina, he inserts a gas bubble into the eye.  Staying face down causes the gas bubble to rise and floating on the back of the eye, rubs and helps heal the attached retina.  And we thought educators' jobs required high expertise. My husband is the runner, biker, skiier-type and an automotive crash research engineer.  Our lives as planned came to a stop.  He could not work, drive or do any normal activities.

Photo courtesy Idea go, free digital photos

As a high school principal I continued to work, meshed with putting three drops in his eyes before work, coming home to prepare his lunch and three more eye drops, and then home for dinner and more eye drops.  It was difficult to see him face down while trying to pass the time, even while sleeping.  I would come and go to various school events and return to him, still face down.  He was a good patient and followed all of the post-surgical regimen.

After these long two weeks, we returned to the surgeon, hopeful to hear him say that his eye was healed and our lives could return to normal.  As the surgeon peered into the eye we waited for what we hoped would be positive feedback.  Silence.

Then he hesitatingly stated that he was concerned about fluid in the eye and he wanted to watch it for two days as it could indicate there was still a hole in the retina.  After two lengthy days we returned and, alas, there was too much fluid and indeed, either a new hole had developed or the first surgery had not found this hole.

This news was devastating, as the surgeon had explained at our first surgery that while first detached retina surgeries are often successful, each failure leads to a more invasive surgery with more negative results for vision.  Retinas that are unable to be attached lead to blindness in that eye, a life-changer.

And then, the surgeon uttered these words that  us hope.  He told us that at his retinal surgery group, their goal was 100% re-attachments, and that he intended to reach that goal with us. The second surgery would be more difficult, and vision may be more compromised, but he intended to attach the retina.

My husband underwent the surgery, missed eight weeks of work, but has an attached retina in his eye. We appreciated we were part of the group which had 100% of successful surgeries as a goal.

I often now use this example in my presentations to educators, now as an educational consultant/presenter and a retired high school principal.  What if every teacher set a goal for every one of his or her students that 100% of them would be successful?  What if every school set that goal for every student, and more importantly worked toward it every day and communicated it with every student and parent?

Would every teacher instruct differently?  Would every school respond differently?  The answer is yes.

Photo courtesy Stuart Miles, free digital photos

I  know that some educators, both teachers and administrators, feel that 100% is an unrealistic goal. That we have too many students with external issues.  Is every patient the same?  Do surgeons have perfect and healthy patients or those with diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure that makes them more difficult to heal, whatever the ailment?

What if my husband's automotive crash research facility had less than a 100% goal for crash test safety?  Do you want the surgeon with less than a 100% success goal?  Do we want to eat at a restaurant with less that a 100% sanitation/safety goal?

Graphic courtesy of Jayme Linton via Twitter

Certainly some students are more challenging than others, but schools with effective pyramid of interventions can respond more appropriately, just as physicians respond individually to patients. High schools can be caring cultures and climates with dedication to 100% of students' success.  How? Through professional learning community work and alignment of all key stakeholders to a focus on learning.

Our school is a Professional Learning Community that focuses every day on learning, aligning every practice and aspect to a goal of 100% learning for every student every day with every teacher every class period. Every staff member focuses on the four questions of PLC work collaboratively in same-subject teams.  It has transformed our school into a true learning community, and high expectations yield high results.

In trying to attain perfection, we achieve excellence. Put simply, you hit what you aim for, so aim high.  And it has brought us success in a number of external indicators-- National Blue Ribbon School, National Model PLC at Work School, #88 in Newsweek rankings of America's Best High School, and outscoring Shanghai, the highest performing school system in the world, in reading, math and science on the PISA, the international assessment that ranks the world's best schools.

 If you are satisfied with a goal of 85% of student success, or a 77% goal, or a 95% goal, ask yourself if that would be good enough if you were choosing a pediatric surgeon or oncologist.  The answer would be no, for the failure rate is a life-changer, particularly if it is you, or your child.

Now picture your child in a classroom.  What would be an acceptable student success percentage that you would want his/her teacher to set?

Photo courtesy JSCreations, free digital photos

You see, that is the "why," the most important question that separates high-performing schools from average ones.  Shoot high, for if you fall short, you will have still achieved greater than your goal. Do we attain 100%?  Not necessarily, but do we exist in order to work towards 100% to change students' lives every day?  Yes.  And that is the growth mindset that is and will be the difference in education.

Graphic courtesy of Twitter

Monday, September 21, 2015

Paradigms for every educator: Microscope and Telescope

For those of us who are involved in improving student learning for every student in our schools every day, we have a myriad of research available to us, whether we are teachers, administrators, educational staff, or consultants.

Having served as a high school principal for the last nine years, I have not only read widely and deeply in educational research such as Professional Learning Community principles, Marzano, Hattie, Stiggins and other educational researchers but helped facilitate its implementation with our staff since Dublin Jerome's inception in 2004.  Now an educational consultant working with a variety of educators in diverse districts, I know that educators are working hard to digest research and implement effective instructional strategies to positively impact student learning.

This summer I read Training Camp by Jon Gordon, and one of the life lessons a football coach teaches the protagonist discusses the advantages of looking at life through both a microscope and a telescope.

I couldn't help but think how we, as educators and educational leaders, would also benefit from looking at our work through both paradigms.

Why? As educators, whether it be as a classroom teacher, building principal, central office administrator, or consultant, we benefit from looking at our practices and data both with a microscope and with a telescope.

Photo by Photokanok

Our data analysis often needs a microscope, making sure we "put the faces on the data," as Stiggins exhorts us to do, and digging deep to ask those "I wonder why" questions to give meaning to the data.  But we would also benefit from using a telescope, a longer range and bigger picture of our data.  This big picture gives us the opportunity to look at data longitudinally as well as conduct comparison analysis with same-subject team members and alignment with building and district data goals.

School districts often find classrooms teachers or individual building principals constantly using microscopes as they are laser-focused on their immediate student needs, with all of the daily stress, pressure and emotions associated with it.  Conversely, we associate telescopes with district administrators who must often analyze mounds of data from multiple buildings while always keeping a big picture in mind.

Photo by Idea.go

The most effective way to truly impact student learning, however, is for every educator-- classroom, building or district, to analyze data utilizing the paradigms of both the microscope and the telescope. A balance of paradigms in data analysis truly leads to more effective and aligned instructional strategies and a positive effect on student learning.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Live, learn and hope

And so it is March 31, the end of the Slice of Life Challenge for this year. I remember at the end of last year, my first Slice of Life, I had a great feeling of exhilaration and relief.

Although I didn't write every day, I felt proud of my participation.

This year was different.  I truly believed that I could indeed write every single day, a bold and challenging yet thrilling prospect.  And I was proud of my progress and confident. Until March 20.  I am not even sure what happened that day.

It was spring break and I had worked every day, and so since it was Friday afternoon I longed for some relaxation and recreation.  I drove to Easton, a local shopping district, entered Brio's and watched some NCAA March Madness.  I thought to myself as I walked around-- Is this what people who are not high school principals do on a Friday? Sit in a bar and drink wine and beer?  What a strange paradigm.

After walking to Nordstrom's, Coach, Clark's Shoes, Crate and Barrel and a few other favorite window shopping stores, I returned home and relaxed prior to going out for a rare Friday night dinner with my husband since I work most Friday nights.

Ahh-- our favorite restaurant, great lobster, chopped salad and potatoes au gratin and back home.

Relaxing on the couch, we watched a few of the TV shows we record, especially Hawaii Five-O and slept soundly. It was just a beautiful evening.

And then when I woke up, it hit me.  I had not written on Friday.  As I became more alert, I reviewed it in my head.  I mentally re-wound Friday and yes, realized again, that after 19 straight days I had missed my first day, ruining my perfectionistic goal of writing every day.

I was simultaneously angry and disappointed in myself.  How could I let this happen?

I had written when I was overly tired, I had written with a high fever from the flu, and yet, in one day, without even thinking about it, I had just forgotten to write.

I actually thought about just ending the challenge there, but I found a way to write again.  And enjoy it again.

Did I write every day the rest of the month? No-- it does seem that once you miss one day it is easier to miss another.  And so on a trip to Indiana and spending four days with the best educational leaders, researchers, authors and educational practitioners in the United States, I then missed four days of writing.  And I was OK with it, whatever that shows.
Graphic from Page-A-Day Calendar.

But tonight, I just could not skip writing on the last day.

Why?  Because the Slice of Life Challenge is just that. A challenge.  And I love a challenge!

Perfect last year?  No. Perfect this year?  No.  Back next year?  Absolutely.

Why?  Because I have discovered that I can enjoy something and be imperfect.

And that is a great thing to learn about yourself.  I learned that on some days, you just have to live. And I learned that there is always hope for tomorrow.  Or for next year's Slice?

 Isn't that the real reason for the challenge?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hundreds of channels and so little to watch

We have hundreds of channels on our cable service, and I am sure many of you do also.

And yet, night after night we struggle to find something on to watch.  We dislike reality TV-- so what do we watch?

We record Hawaii 5-0 and sometimes binge-watch catching up.  Big Bang Theory is a big hit, both in syndicated reruns and new programs, again set to record.  I love Blue Bloods and also record it to watch later, and do the same with NCIS and NCIS New Orleans.

We don't get Showtime or HBO but will record old movies from some of the other movie channels, especially Indiana Jones, Star Wars and the National Treasure series shows.

During college football and basketball season we watch Big Ten and Ohio State games especially and have it on when we are doing other household tasks and also do the same with some pro football games, especially the Browns.  Yes-- we are long-suffering Browns fans.

I drive my husband crazy going up and down the Guide finding nothing or little to watch.  On the weekends we watch the morning news shows and when I am doing school work I will watch CMT for the country music videos.

Occasionally I record really old sitcoms such as Andy Griffith as it reminds me of watching these wonderful episodes over and over again with my Dad.  Throw in Matlock, Hogan's Heroes and Gomer Pyle for the same reasons.  I can still hear his laugh.

Apparently we are still among the few who watch evening news shows when we are home, mostly CBS, and since we are creatures of habit, follow that with honing family not-so-friendly competition in viewing Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.

And that is pretty much it for us in the course of the week. We watch very few shows when scheduled and have about 10 regulars.  So glad we are paying for hundreds of choices. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why don't you "google" that?

It is hard to imagine life without Google.  How much do you "google" each day?

When did Google become a verb.  Rather than say we are going to look up something on the internet, we say we will "google" it.  It's become the "Kleenex" of the internet.  Very few people ask for a tissue-- but many of us ask for a kleenex.

We don't research on the internet-- we google.

Since our district transitioned to being a Google district, I have to admit I have become an ardent Google fan.  I love the email and also Google Chrome, easily rotating between personal and work email.

One of my favorite Google tools is Google Forms.  Have you tried it?  In an extremely short time, you can develop a survey with any type of question, choose what kind of answer and whether it is required or not, choose a cute theme background and share it with your entire staff, contact list or even small group.

It compiles the results in two different formats which you can also share with the recipients or anyone else you want for great transparency to survey takers.

Our staff uses Google forms to collect student data and we utilize it to solicit important input and feedback, documenting collaboration and SMART goals for same-subject team or departmental PLC work.  It can be shared among teachers, among teachers or administrators, or even with Central Office, a great documentation tool of teacher and student work.

Don't know how to repair your washing machine?

Don't know how to post a youtube video?

Don't know how to do a Google form?

Just Google it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Knee-Defender:" What do you think?

I was reading the Columbus Dispatch before dinner and read an article entitled Viral Victories, how internet fame has helped create riches for small businesses.

Among the examples was the the recent internet-famous dress which viewers couldn't tell whether the dress was blue and black or white and gold. While I never fully understood the furor or the explanation, I am not surprised that the viral attention generated increased sales of over 600% for the small company.

Three other examples were also highlighted: the Cronut, a cross between a donut and croissant; a Ti-shirt with three wolves howling at the moon, and the Knee Defender.

I am not at all familiar with the Cronut or the Howling Moon T-Shirt, but I clearly remember the media fervor by a brawl on a commercial jet over the Knee Defender.

If you remember, the Knee Defender is a $22 device that a passenger can attach to his/her airline tray table to prevent the person in front of them from reclining the seat in front of them.

It caused a huge blow-up on the jet and tons of publicity, with many people siding with either the guy who invented it or the passenger who wanted to recline her seat.

Apparently US airlines prohibit its usage but it is not illegal.  I never understood that if the airline prohibits it why didn't the flight attendant ask the person using it to remove it, but that is a different story.  Obviously the publicity generated more business for the Knee Defender company, but I think it also launched a debate among air travelers.

I have to admit that when I fly I rarely recline my seat and when I do I do it only slightly.  I try to be very cognizant of the person in back of me.  I also hate it when the person in front of me reclines it as far back as it goes, as I really feel they are infringing on my space at that point, especially since the airlines have greatly reduced the seat size and leg room on flights to make more money.

However, I don't feel it is right to completely use a device that prevents someone from reclining at all.

What do you think?  Would you use a Knee Defender?  If you were in the front seat and tried to recline and couldn't, what would you do if the person was using the Knee Defender?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hats, hats

Everyone collects something.  At our house we have developed an unintentional collection of hats.  I say unintentional because it wasn't a collection that we focused on developing such as many other people intentionally develop, such as collections of fine art, patches, or golf balls.

No fine art adorns our walls, but our closets boast hats.

My husband and I both like hats, and as we traveled we would see hats that we liked and each purchase them, whether we were traveling together or separately.  Over the years it has turned into a collection of hats focusing on some of our favorite places, concerts, and teams.

Is this a valuable collection of any kind to anyone else?  No.  But to us, our hats are filled with great memories of some of our favorite times.  And that makes each one special to us, and when we wear the hat, some of those memories are with us.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fast Food possible effects on academics

It's a slow start to the day on a Saturday morning and I am glancing over the The Ohio University Alumni Association magazine.

One article catches my eye, a nationwide study on the effects of fast food.

I expected to see stats on obesity and how fast food may be contributing negatively to our nation's overall health.

But this article was different, quoting instead the negative effect that eating fast food could have on reading, math and science test scores.

As an educator, I find it extremely interesting to be aware of all of the external factors that affect students' ability to do well academically since we work very hard to foster a professional learning community culture and climate focus on learning.

According to this study, the more frequently students report eating fast food in fifth grade, the lower their growth in reading, math and science test scores by eighth grade.  In fact, students who ate the most fast food had test score gains up to 20 percent lower than those who never ate fast food.

Another starting statistic in the article stating the 10 percent of students in the survey reported eating fast food every day and another 10 percent ate fast food four to six times a week.

Think of the students in our classroom every day and think that at least 20 percent of them eating fast food at least four times a week or more often.

Now think of the possible negative effect on their academics.

The study did not articulate what kind of food is designated fast food or any certain fast food brand, but certainly we can most likely name the fast food restaurants in each of our geographical regions.

In fact, look at some of the fast food breakfasts that our students come into school with every morning, driving through on their way to school.

Although certainly we have all been aware of the negative effects of fast food on overall health, it is interesting to now be aware that fast food may also have a negative effect on academics.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How tired are you? Does it really matter?

As a high school principal I see it on the faces of our students.  They are tired, really tired.  AP courses, IB courses, athletic practices and contests, community service, plays, concerts, homework. With seniors, throw in college applications and essays and our students suffer from sleep deprivation.

We have all read the research on sleep and teenagers and how they would benefit from delayed school starts.  In fact, our district has adjusted high school times with first period starting at 7:55 AM.  While students would like it even earlier it has helped students.  On our one-hour delayed starts on Wednesdays for staff PD, students greatly enjoy classes starting at 8:20 AM and it is clear on their faces how much another 25 minutes benefits students.

But what about everyone else, even adults who consistently get insufficient sleep night after night?

How much sleep do we all need?  The National Sleep Foundation  recommends seven to nine hours of sleep a night in order for the body and mind to function well.

What does that mean? What is function well? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, affecting negatively every aspect of our lives, from our relationships, to our work performance, and our health.

Car accidents, hypertension, diabetes, depression and early death are all related to a lack of sleep. Cancer in mice, weight gain and other health hazards are also related to a lack of sleep.  The University of Rochester research states that during sleep the brain does maintenance, clearing itself of chemical waste products.

Do you want your child taking the ACT on sleep deprivation? Driving home from a waitressing job? What about the surgeon doing your heart surgery?  Your child's teacher supervising them on the playground?  Grading their essay? Valeting your car? Testing your child's car seat as an automotive engineer or testing your air bags? Monitoring your house alarm?

One 2003 study showed that losing two hours of sleep in one night had the same affect of drinking two to three beers.

"Cyber-loafing" is a new term, referring to people with inadequate sleep affecting their ability to do their job, instead visiting entertainment or social media sites instead of being able to be productive and engage in professional decision-making.  Is that you? One of your colleagues?

Are our students tired?  Yes.  But what about our staffs? What about us as parents? As doctors? Truck drivers? Bankers? Engineers? Architects?

If a lack of sleep negatively affects all of our performances what can we do to be more productive and make better decisions at work?  Research states we need to get healthier by getting more sleep every night.  And encourage our children to get more sleep also.

Leave our electronic devices out of our bedrooms and focus on our sleep health.  According to the research, our lives depend on it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What does your car say about you?

When I growing up, I learned a lot about cars from my Dad.   He told me to keep the oil changed, make sure the radiator had water in it,  remember it won't run without gas, and if you have to drive anyway, convertibles are a lot of fun.

Other than a VW bug that my Dad got only to drive in the "winter around town," in order to preserve his last convertible, my Dad owned either a Pontiac or Oldsmobile convertible from 1963 to sometime in the 1990's.

He ordered one of the last Delta 88 convertibles, silver with red interior, to roll off the assembly line I think in 1987.  You see, for a while the automakers stopped making convertibles, breaking my Dad's heart.

 He kept the last one until it needed more work than the old Marine could afford.  By that time he was too old to do his own car work and was "confounded" by the car computers.  When I was growing up there wasn't anything his convertible needed, from an oil change to a new alternator or spark plugs, that he couldn't fix himself.

Those Pontiac Catalina, Oldsmobile Delta 98 convertibles were the size of a river barge, and were so much fun on which to learn to drive.

I can still out-parallel park anyone because I learned to parallel park a car that was the exact size of the parking space.  Wide bodies and the length of two cars today it seems.

I could fill it up with the entire senior play cast with the top down and cruise all over Marietta, one arm on the steering wheel and one resting out the window.  The cool way to drive.

When my daughter was in elementary school and a Girl Scout, we took her troop to Marietta to earn a history badge  by going to Campus Martius museum, visiting Mound Cemetery, riding the Becky Thatcher sternwheeler and going to Fenton's Art Glass across the river in Williamstown.

But the most fun the seven girls had was all piling into Dad's silver convertible and going to Broughton's Dairy with the top down.

The girls hooted and hollered at traffic lights and waved as if they were in a parade, even taking the car downtown to visit the Mayor of Marietta, one of Dad's Marine friends.

While those big old convertibles with  a 407 engine exist only at Classic Car Shows, I have carried Dad's love of convertibles over to my life.

My last three cars have been red convertibles, one soft top and two hard tops.  I wonder what Dad would think of the hard tops.  My current one is a VW EOS with a sunroof in the hardtop-- I think Dad would love it.

Every time I drive to Marietta, this time to visit Mom and Dad's graves, I can't wait to put the top down as soon as I can after arriving, and soon I feel almost like I did when I was riding up Route 7 with Dad.  Up the wide Ohio River, around the bend to Newport or New Matamoras,  Dad loved riding in his convertible and waving to the little kids in the yards who would stop playing ball in the yard to point and wave, for convertibles were a rarity.

My Dad loved convertibles because I think they fit the way he loved life.  He went in on Day 1 of Iwo Jima and was shot in the spine by a Japanese sniper on Day 8.  He barely lived and lost many, many Marine buddies and friends. He lived paralyzed for the remainder of his life, plagued by physical and mental war demons.

When you come that close to death and see the horrors of hand-to-hand combat, I think the rest of his viewpoint on life was completely changed.  He lived the rest of his life with reckless abandon, and his convertibles fit his love for the wind blowing through his hair and speeding down the highway with the top down with the "pedal to the metal."  Seat belts?  He hated them so much he cut them out of the first cars they came in.

He loved loud clothes, big poker games, Swisher Sweets, and yes, big convertibles.  Live hard and run fast, and he did until he died.

What does your car say about you?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Is it your lucky day?

Do you feel lucky?  After all, it is St. Patrick's Day!  The day where everyone is Irish.

Did you know it was St. Patrick's Day?  Is is a big day where you live?  Are you sporting something green today?

Our city's name is Dublin, and so it is hard NOT to know it is St. Patrick's Day.  In fact, when you live in Dublin you are lucky every day as the Irish influence is everywhere.

Each of the three high school's has green as one of its colors and the team names are the Fighting Irish, the Shamrocks and the Celtics.

Many of the street names or neighborhoods have Irish influences, and every year Dublin holds a St. Patrick's Day parade on the Saturday before the holiday with over 100 parade units.  Think your legs look good in a kilt? Then enter the Best Legs Contest.  Reddest Hair?  Most Freckles?  Yes.  You too could win a prize.

Hungry? Come to the Lions Club Pancake Breakfast before the parade and top your all-you-can-eat pancakes off with green syrup. Mmmmmm.

And it seems the whole city is wearing something with Kelly green on it,  whether it is a green lei, green socks,green mittens, a green scarf or a green top hat! Over 20,000 people line the parade route to watch the three high school bands, sporting green uniforms, the large inflatable green shamrocks, Irish Wolfhounds and hundred of other city trucks, convertibles, Girls and Boys Scouts, or little majorettes, all with green decorations.

In fact Dublin loves Irish music and all things green so much that at the beginning of August the city hosts the largest Irish Festival in the world outside of Dublin, Ireland.  For three days we go to enjoy authentic Irish music -- yes, many of the bands travel from Ireland and some of the best Irish dancers in the world.

Over 100,000 attend on acres of a city park and Killian's flows from the taps while attendees enjoy bangers and Irish Stew, along with traditional summer fair food such a funnel cakes.

And yes, even lighted Shamrocks decorate home windows and Shamrock place mats adorn kitchen tables with Shamrock green bears as centerpieces.

Twice a year our city lives up to its Irish name and we couldn't be luckier to live here, especially on St. Patrick's Day!  As for me, I am Irish on both my mother and father's side of my family.  We have even traced our family tree to Francis Marion Creighton who immigrated from Dublin, Ireland! Top of the mornin' to you!  May the luck of the Irish be with you! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2015

A working spring break; an empty building

Friday was a flurry of activity around school, our last day before spring break.  Staff members and students excitedly counted the hours and minutes down to 2:42, the end of the school day.

Bits of common destination sites filled the air.  Orlando, Key West, Bahamas, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Scottsdale, West Palm, Tampa, Vail. . . .

Smiles, excitement, flight days and times. Saturday at 10 AM, Monday at 1:20, Sunday at 8:15 and so on.

It is especially fun if you can respond as well with your destination and travel plans.

It is different if you are staying home.

It is even more different if you are working spring break as my admin team and I are.

In our district administrators work spring break unless we take vacation days, and for many reasons, our entire team is working.

One of my assistants is attending a two-day local conference and then working the rest of the week, and another one will be giving Ventures interviews to prospective teaching candidates for the district.  The other assistant is moving into a new house and so is working each day and moving at night.

And me? I am catching up on evals, looking at staffing numbers, and finishing some letters of recommendation.

While it is not unusual to welcome a work time to catch up this time of year, one of the most unusual  aspects of working during scheduled school breaks is the emptiness of the building.

I have never gotten used to seeing, hearing and feeling an empty school building.

I am convinced the buildings mourn the loneliness and emptiness of missing students and staff.

Every day about 1700 students and staff enter our front doors and pour into our foyer and cafeteria, awaiting the start of the school day.  The sights and sounds of student and staff laughter, bell tones, conversations, late feet running to first period, binders hitting cafeteria tables, and muted conversations bring a building to life.

Today the building seemed sad and cavernous.  At any given time there were no more than six to eight people in it.  The lights stayed off except in the custodial working areas and the main office and the only sound was the occasional ringing of the office phone and quiet conversations.

The building is too empty and quiet without the family that gives it life.

No excited voices.  No enthusiastic greetings.  Just a few adults working mostly in isolation.

And while for the admin team it will be a productive work week, it is never the same to be in this workplace without our students and staff, the very integral family members that bring our building to life.

I prefer our family being together and will eagerly await their return next Monday where the building will once again be happy and alive.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Do you tweet? If not, give Twitter a chance

Do you tweet?  Don't know what that is?  Then you are not a Twitter user or follower.

On March 21 Twitter will celebrate its 9th anniversary.  The founder of Twitter posted the first tweet and now Twitter has 288 million active users posting 500 million tweets a day.  Wow!

About three years I embarked on my first social network, Twitter.  I had never had a Facebook account and still don't, and really had no desire to get one.  I was wary as a high school principal about even the possibility of being so public and could see no professional reason to Facebook.

As I heard more about Twitter though I had become very curious about creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

I wanted to interact with educators in order to learn from those with similar interests, such a focusing on student learning and professional learning communities.  A PLN is an informal learning network of people you connect with for learning, and now I cannot imagine functioning as an educator and high school principal without Twitter and the other educators who make up my PLN, such as Steven Weber, Dwight Carter, Bobby Dodds, Wes Weaver, Penny Kittle and many other substantive educators.

Notifications on Twitter lets you know who is recently following you as well as re-tweets to your tweets.

One of my favorite learning networks is #atplc, short for "all things professional learning community" an intense interest of mine.  By searching this, or whatever interest you may have on Twitter, you can easily link up with others of the same interest and garner excellent ideas and information.

My Twitter PLN reflects others educators that I learn from every day.

I also wanted to establish my own digital footprint as positively as possible before someone I didn't know established a negative one for me.  I remember talking to another educator who reminded me that all of us already have a digital identity.  Whether we establish it or someone else does is up to us.

In addition, I had a professional goal of utilizing social media for better communication with our high school's families and students, and after investigating Twitter thought its brevity of 140 characters per tweet would lend itself to fast and direct communication.

In other words, I wanted to provide quick and important updates to families and students without spending a lot of time doing it.

So I contacted one of our district's tech specialists and she came over to my office and helped me establish a school Facebook (mostly for our parents) and Twitter (mostly for our students) accounts.  Hootsuite manages both so I make one post on both Facebook and Twitter simultaneously.

Our school Twitter account reflects our direct communication to our stakeholders about school events and accomplishments.

It has greatly increased school-home direct communication.  We have 1818 followers of the school account while only following 12 accounts.  The school account follows other school Twitter accounts, such as our student section (@jeromejungle) and many of our sports teams, such as basketball, football and hockey also have Twitter accounts and so when we tag their accounts their followers directly receive our Tweets.  These thousands of followers have thousands of followers themselves and so we reach a great number of our school community with just one tweet.

As for my personal Twitter account (@cathysankey) I am well aware that many students and parents on Twitter certainly also follow my personal account and so I am cognizant to use this account mainly for PLN purposes.  I never put anything personal on the account that I would not want to see on the 6 PM newscast-- a good rule of thumb for anyone on social media.

Now I cannot imagine life without the school Twitter and Facebook accounts and my PLN.  I learn so much every day about education and also follow famous quotes and beautiful photo sites that help alleviate some of the stress of being a high school principal.

Don't Tweet?  Give Twitter a chance to learn and grow as a professional every day.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A different kind of addiction

Do you remember when addiction meant a dependence on drugs or alcohol?  Today in the news, experts speak of a very different kind of addiction affecting men and women of every age, even children and teenagers.

What is our society's new addiction?

Addiction to technology, specifically smartphones.

Are you addicted to your phone?  How can you know?

Beginning in 2012, according to Nielsen polls, phone users spent an average of 18 hours per month on their phones.

Beginning in 2014, phone users spent an average of 30 hours per month on their phones, and that number is increasing.

To help users assess their own usage, or addiction to their Smart phone, two apps have been developed.  The fact there are apps that can track our own addictions to the very phones we are using is somewhat ironic, but users believe the apps are helping curb phone usage.

One app is called Moment.  Moment tell you the number of minutes you use your phone.  Users can set a daily limit for themselves and Moment notifies you if you reach your limit.

The other app is called Checky.  Checky monitors the number of times you check your phone, even the number of times you unlock your device.

It allows users to share their score on social media as well as tracks locations where you check your phone.  Some people report checking their phone 200 times a day or more, and even locations such as the freeway.

The belief of each of these app developers is that once users have awareness of the amount of time they are either using their phones or checking their phones, with being able to set daily limits or goals, users will spend less time on their phones unnecessarily.

Do you believe you are addicted to your phone?  Maybe one of these two apps can help you spend less time on your phone and more time on what really matters to you.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A familiar face in a different light

Even though I have been married for almost 38 years, today I saw my husband in an entirely new way.

Because of the nature of our jobs, we rarely see each other in our unique workplaces.  Because I am a high school principal, he really has no reason to come to my school, except when he chooses to attend one of our events.

During the school year, I am rarely home in the evening, attending theatrical productions; band, choir or orchestra concerts; or one of our 27 varsity sports.

Because he enjoys watching football, and because we do not see each other for dinner on Friday nights, he walks the two miles to my building and sits in the stands for our home games.  I know his seat or row and am able to look in the stands, catch his eye and wave.  I love the familiarity of his face.

Today was different.  He started the day at our district's technology center as a guest speak for the Chinese I classes.  We teach Chinese I in a blended format with one teacher for the first period beginning Chinese classes.  Having made four trips to China on business as an automotive test engineer, he presented a Powerpoint with photographs and videos from his trip.

Next, he traveled to one of our district middle schools for their Career Day.  One of the standouts of the visit is the crash dummy he brings, this time wearing one of the school's shirts.  The middle school students also love the crash videos and learn much about the automotive engineering career field.

Small child crash dummy.

And then, for the first time, he traveled to my high school to give a presentation in person to the higher levels of Chinese about his business trips to China.

And so, there he was, signing into our building as per as security procedures and stopping by my office before the presentation to our students.  On a daily basis I meet with a variety of parents and staff in my office, but as I sat and talked to him about our days, it was different.

He looked so much different than he usually did if we were talking at home about our day.

As he left with the teacher to make sure the presentation would work in the classroom my mental notes were taking in his shirt, his shoes and his very kind and caring nature he shows to everyone he meets.  I just don't tell him that enough.

About 10 minutes into the class period, I decided to go visit the class and sit in on the presentation.

And that is where I really saw it, a familiar face, but in a very unique light.  His patient voice now instructing our students, pausing to answer their questions as he sometimes would our daughter when helping with her homework.

As he went from one slide to another, viewing his photos and videos, he brought to life the bullet train, the foods and the Chinese companies as only he could.

Husband giving presentation to Chinese class students.
A guest speaker is certainly not an oddity in a high school today.  But when the guest speaker is your spouse, in the building in which you are the principal, you look at them differently.

And today, I saw all of those good qualities that reinforced why I married him and hadn't thought of recently, including that he is bright, patient, enthusiastic about learning, kind and willing to serve others.

Sometimes we just need to see a familiar face in a different light to see and reinforce all the reasons they are special in our lives.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What were you doing when you were 22?

When my daughter turned 22,  I gave her a book entitled When They were 22, 100 Famous People at the Turning Point in Their Lives.

On the cover page I wrote her a note with the day's date and noted some of her significant events and accomplishments: college graduation a month away, recent induction into Phi Beta Kappa, squad leader in The Ohio State University Marching Band, engaged to be married.

The book is a fascinating biographical look at famous people at 22 and how for each one how that age was a turning point in their lives.

Dr. Seuss took the pseudonym we all have learned to love, quit Oxford to pursue his love of drawing and cartooning delightful characters and met the women who would become his wife.

Robert Redford took a theater course in New York that changed his life's course after years of odd jobs of dishwashing, quitting school and hard drinking.

Sandra Day O'Connor took her first attorney job as a deputy county attorney in California setting in motion her long public legal career.  Despite finishing Stanford's law school in just two years and graduating third in her law class, she had been unable in the male-dominated legal world of the 1950's to get offered any attorney job offer in the private sector.  Her public sector work set in motion her lifelong work in public service.

The one or two-page vignettes about each celebrity from a variety of walks of life such as politics, acting, education, literature emphasize the turning points that occurred for each at 22.

What would they write about you at 22?  Was it the turning point in your life?

Looking back at my life, certainly 22 was a turning point for me.  I had graduated from The Ohio State University with a teaching degree in English Communications and took my first teaching job at Centerburg High School, a small rural high school at that time.   I taught a variety of semester English courses to students in grades 9-12, including British Literature and Death in Literature.

Also the school newspaper adviser, I was only four years older than my seniors and was mistaken by many of the staff and cafeteria workers for a student, being asked for hall passes and being sent to the back of the cafeteria line for "ditching" the line.

At 22 on my state minimum teaching salary of $7400 per year, I cleared $195 on my paycheck twice a month.  I had my first apartment rent of $140 to take out of the first check and $135 car payment out of the second check.  Yes, I lived on $115 a month and still had groceries and utilizes to pay for.

And the significance in my life at 22?  In my heart and in my mind I knew that teaching would be my career.  Even more than that.  My calling in life. What I would live to love to do.  Each day I drove the 25 miles to Centerburg from my tiny apartment in Westerville and back, I was genuinely happy.

I was amazed by these wonderful students and their families, honored to be their teacher.  I loved creating a special classroom culture and climate and spending days with students teaching reading, writing, and literature.  But more importantly I could not picture myself doing anything else with my life.

And I haven't.  This is my 30th year in education and my life has been changed by thousands of students, fellow staff members and families.  And to think it all started at 22.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life gets better

Graphic courtesy Page-a-Day Calendar

This morning on TV I saw a Prudential commercial on a visual survey they had conducted with a group of adults from across the country.

Utilizing sticky notes of two colors, they asked people to look back at the last 5 years and write significant events in their lives.  Yellow was for positive events and blue was for negative events.

The subjects then put the notes on a huge board.

When the researchers looked at the results, they noted about an equal number of positive and negative life events noted.

They then asked the participants to look ahead at the next 5 years and do the same thing, this time speculating on the good things or bad things that would happen in their lives.

And the research was far different.

Overwhelmingly, the post-it notes were positive. In fact, almost unanimously.

It seems that even in a cross-section of people, the vast majority were optimistic about their next five years, choosing to focus on what was going to be good in their lives rather than on negatives.

Now in the commercial, the sponsors's conclusion to the participants was that while it is great for people to think about mostly good things in the future, it would be more practical to also anticipate some negative things to better prepare.  Obviously this conclusion  is related to the fact that they sell insurance.

Personally I am disappointed by their conclusion.  For those of us who work with high schoolers, we can see that one of the hardest aspects of life is convincing them that Life Gets Better.

They are often so worried about so many upcoming stressors or anxiety about the future, that it is comforting to me to see that their results confirm what the majority of educators truly believe.  When given free choice, adults choose to believe that there will be far more positives in the future than negatives.

I celebrate the survey.  It is gratifying and comforting to know that as we age, just as CS Lewis stated, we fervently embrace and believe that our lives will have far better times and things ahead than what is in our past.

Now we just  need to continue, as all good educators do, to work to  convince our students, particularly the most fragile and at-risk, that life indeed does get better.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

PLC: Putting vision into action

"Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap"-- Richard DuFour

We have been on a Professional Learning Community journey for all 11 years Dublin Jerome has been open.  When staff, students, and parents come together to create a new high school, a huge undertaking, it would be easy to be fragmented by many good ideas.

The year before we opened, we spent the time in the homes of our families-to-be, on the coffee circuit as you will.

We brought updated photos of the building under construction, and the families brought questions and provided input.

What kind of a high school did they want?

Our parents stated clearly that they wanted a high school that was "good" in a hurry.  Many of them had juniors transitioning, juniors firmly entrenched in the other two district high schools with which they were already quite happy.  The transitioning students were part of successful sports programs, stellar performing arts programs, and strong academics.

These parents were concerned because at that point, we had no credibility.  No school profile.  No average AP scores.  No average ACT scores. No good athletic programs and certainly no outstanding arts.

How good could we become in a short amount of time?

At one very formal coffee, the host had provided parents with note cards on which to write their question(s) and parents took turns as we sat in high stools on a massive patio.  I remember two clear questions from that evening:

1. What is your vision for Dublin Jerome?  An interesting question.  At first I tried answering it noting that we would bring stakeholders together to form our vision, etc.  But the parent interrupted me and clearly stated:  No, I want to know YOUR vision.

I thought a minute and then clearly articulated my vision:

One of the very best high schools in the world by numerous external indicators that indicated students learn at exceptionally high levels.

A Blue Ribbon high school on our very first five years of data.

A high school employing the best research in the world on focusing for learning for every student, every class period, by every teacher, every day: Professional Learning Communities.  I spoke very passionately about this research, for we had started it with a small and committed group of staff at the high school many of us were now leaving.  In particular how teachers collaborated in teams on the 4 questions of a PLC in order to focus on learning, rather than teaching.  How learning was the constant instead of learning.

A high school where teams of educators from local, state, national and international educational systems come to visit to see how we do business.

After rattling these things off the parents nodded and sat quietly.  I inwardly thought for a moment --what did I just do?  I had never articulated this vision aloud before but I knew in my heart that this was the school we could and would create.

After the meeting, one parent came up and told me she had contacted her brother, an educator in Illinois about the opportunity to ask us questions about her son's new high school.

She said she was so pleased to hear that we were utilizing DuFour, DuFour and Eaker's research on PLC work.  Her brother had told her that if we did not mention it, she should be very disappointed.

But she was not, and after articulating clearly the Jerome vision and seeing our parents' eyes, I knew we could do it, as that is what they wanted also.

And though PLC work is very often two steps forward and one step back, and certainly sounds easier then it looks, we have fulfilled that steps of that vision, and continue to work on it every day.

PLC is our focus and the reason for our success.  Blue Ribbon School?-- yes and with our first five years of data.  One of the top PLC schools in the nation?  Yes- a National Model PLC at Work School.  Visits from educators from all of the world?  Yes, thanks to partnerships with Battelle for Kids, we have hosted visitors from our state, nation and world, including some of the best school systems globally , China and Finland.

PLC work is not a destination, and we still have to work at it hard every day.  But the vision of being the best school for students still drives our decision-making. PLC work has made the difference for us and it can for you.

What is the Knowing-Doing Gap? DuFour and Eaker have both written about this subject, both in On Common Ground and in blog posts.  In thousands of schools across our country and world, we know what makes those practices and re-culturing needed to make the difference in student learning (the knowing) but we don't always implement the changes we need in order to change from a school focused on teaching to a school focused on learning (the doing).

It is this gap that separates PLC schools from the rest, and while the work is challenging and requires a growth mindset and stretch culture, it changes the lives of staff, parents and students.

And isn't that why we exist? Should that always be our vision?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Flu season over? I don't think so.

Got a flu shot.

Avoided feeling really lousy in a building that almost 1700 come into every day.  And yes, truly believed that despite the stats on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine I was home-free.  Feeling great.  Footloose and fancy free.

And then my secretary came to work with a high fever, leaving early last Thursday.  And yes, she touches everything of mine.

Friday, started feeling bad. Even went to doctor to get out in front of it.  Even took flu test-- now that is fun, having someone poke a long wooden stick up your nose to your brain.  Test: negative.
Felt better with an antibiotic Sat and Sunday.

Woke up this morning feeling lousy, as my Dad used to say.

Gutted it out and now am home.



Muscle aches.

Bad cough.


I am not a doctor, but I can assure you that I definitely have the flu.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

On top of every mountain . . .

"On top of every mountain, there was a great longing for another even higher mountain."

Our high school has been open for 11 years, and has been in pursuit of excellence in academics, athletics, the arts and in all areas ever since.  "We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.  And we have enjoyed much success.

One of our successful programs has been our Hockey Team, a great family led by a coach highly committed to not only teaching students how to excel at hockey but how to excel in life with character.

Yesterday, they played for the District Championship, with the winner earning a trip to the Frozen 4.

Even making it to the District Final is an achievement for any team, as the Elite 8 in itself is the top of the mountain for many teams.

Indeed, our team had previously been there three times in the past 10 years, certainly an achievement for a young program.

Yes, all three times we have been to this mountain in the past we were thrilled to have the opportunity to make the Elite 8 and play for the chance to go to the Frozen 4.

And each time previously, we lost.  Not just lost, but lost in sudden death Overtime.

One championship game we lost in 4 OT's.

And each of the times we came away from that game we kept longing for the "even higher mountain."

It is not enough to make the one mountain if there is a higher mountain out there.

Ask any competitor who has finished runner-up what it means.  There is a huge gulf, indeed huge longing, when you reach one mountain and another higher one is still there.

In high school sports, in college sports, in pro sports-- no one is satisfied with making it to the top of just one mountain.  And I have been on both sides as a high school principal and as an Ohio State fan.  And I have looked into the eyes of outstanding student-athletes devastated because there is another mountain higher that they haven't reached, and not satisfied because they have reached one.  Even if life, no one truly is buoyed by being told we are the #2 candidate or choice.

And so, yesterday we took a 1-0 lead only to have the other team score 2 goals in 90 seconds of play.

With both teams battling hard, we carried a 3-2 lead into the third period, only to have the other team score in the first 30 seconds of the third period to tie it up.

And so it remained until the end of the third period.

Yes, our 4th time in the district final, and our 4th overtime.  We couldn't believe it.  What are the odds-- most likely greater than we think with two of the top Div. 1 teams in Central Ohio fighting hard.

Sudden death.  Teams racing up and down the ice.  Saves by both goalies.  Intense grappling for the puck.

And then it happened.  One of our players intercepted a pass, and falling down, passed it to a teammate who buried it high in the net.

Bedlam.  Gloves flying off.  Sticks sliding across the ice.  Players hugging, crying, high-fives! Our student section erupting; proud parents capturing the joy with cell phones posed! Alumni players looking wistfully at the ice.

Our players celebrate their District Championship and trip to the Frozen 4!
We had longed for the higher mountain, and we had climbed it!  The Frozen 4!

The top of the mountain.  And now the longing for another even higher one-- a different one.

Just as in life.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here

"The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make others so."

Do you know anyone who will be happy tomorrow?  You know, as in "when I graduate from high school and get on my own I will be happy."

When I get to college I will be happy.

When I get the job I want -- that will make me happy.

When I get married I will be happy.

When I have children, I will be happy.

When I become a manager or supervisor I will be be happy.

When I get the bigger and better job I will be happy.

When I retire I will be happy.

Do you have a baby?  Maybe a young child.  Are you always wishing for them to be in the next stage?  You know, sleeping thought the night, out of the terrible two's, out of daycare, out of preschool, out of elementary, out of high school . . . And before you know it you have wished away every stage.

There are so many quotes to remind us to not only live in the moment but to enjoy it, love it.  Carpe diem.  Seize the day. Once a minute is gone we can never get it back.

But for many it is impossible to do.

Sometimes we have a tendency to play the victim, and so we defer our happiness.  We start imagining those perfect times in our lives when we will finally be happy.

And then, just as fast as a baby becomes an adult, the days blur by and happiness never comes for some.

The time to be happy is now.  The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.

It is the last part of that quote that is the key.  If we focus on making others happy, then we move off all of the reasons or things in our lives that make us unhappy.

I am lucky.  I have had this quote in front of me for at least the last 30 years.  I have posted it in every classroom I had when I was a teacher, in every office as a principal, and in my wallet.

It has been a wonderful reminder to serve others, every day.  And in doing so, I have learned to never wish away even one day,  even the very difficult ones.  I have loved every day and every stage of my daughter's life, and still do now that she is an adult.  It is such a blessing to be a mother, to be a wife, to have been a teacher, and to be a principal.

I have loved every classroom I had the privilege to hold the hopes and dreams of my students and my families, and I have loved every day of being a principal. even the tragic ones.

For if we can continue to serve others, and make their lives better by living in the moment, the good ones and the bad, then we don't wait for the next minute, hour, day or the next stage of our lives to be happy.

"The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is her, and the way to be happy is to serve others."

What a wonderful way to live life!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Can'ts into cans; dreams into plans

Artwork courtesy of Page-A-Day Calendar

Our high school is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. Starting overseas, the  IB Diploma Program is considered to be the most rigorous curriculum in the world.  Colleges and universities, especially those with selective admissions, weight high school students earning the IB Diploma more heavily than any other admission criteria.

In their Junior and Senior years, IB Diploma candidates take courses in six subject areas: Language and Literature, Language acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Science, Math and Arts.

At our school, all IB courses are weighted on the 5.0 scale.  In addition, students are required to take Theory of Knowledge, a course that explores the reflection and nature of knowledge; a 4000-word Extended Essay based on a student-driven research project; and a Creativity, Action, Research (CAS) Project, requiring a 3-part emphasis requiring teamwork, personal challenge and reflection.

If it sounds difficult it is.  Ask yourself this question-- if you were a high school student would you choose this amount of work your junior and senior year?

At our school, and at schools around the world, students choose to challenge themselves every day.  Their IB assessments, rigorous examinations mailed to trained IB graders in India, New Zealand, China, Australia and all around the globe are essay-based, requiring deep interdisciplinary thinking, and no multiple choice items that characterize American assessments, including Advanced Placement.

Why do students choose IB?  Are these students only the "brainiacs" of our high school and other global high schools?

The answer is an unequivocal no.  Many of these students are our most unassuming students.  Bright? Yes. Hard-working?  Absolutely yes.  Dedicated to making the world better by examining content from a global perspective?  You bet.

But truly the reason these students are IB Diploma students are because they turned the can'ts into cans.  While other students found reasons NOT to do the IB Diploma these students didn't.  Why?  Because they have dreams, of college and of life, and the IB Diploma is an excellent way of turning their dreams into plans.

Our IB Diploma candidates hold a CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) Demonstration evening to explain and display their CAS projects.  What an amazing evening!

IB Diploma Program candidate explains her CAS project.
One student proudly showed her 4 State Championship (yes, 4!) golf medals, another her Mid-Ohio Food Bank volunteerism and another his youth league participation.  All of the projects demonstrated their creativity in a range of activities, including making jewelry, designing a website or in cooking, a variety of community service projects, and team pursuits ranging from the arts to athletics.

They completed these projects while taking six academic IB courses and TOK and don't forget their 4000-word Extended Essays.  And those rigorous Internal and External exams are stressful!

Could they have found many reasons NOT to be an IB Diploma candidate. Sure.  Do other students? Yes.

But our IB Diploma candidates and graduates are the ones who turn their can'ts into cans and dreams into plans.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

You can do anything but not everything

"You can do anything but not everything."-- David Allen

This quote aptly applies to this day.

As I started the day, looking at the array of colorful sticky notes surrounding my computer screen and beside the keyboard, I made a mental note of my plans for the day.  A fairly typical day for a high school principal.

Assist freshmen as they enter with verifying room number for Ohio's PBA in Physical Science.

Congratulatory notes to our BB Coach and Hockey Coach for their recent awards.

Scan email for those of immediate importance and listen to any voicemails.

Phone unhappy parent.  Mental note-- sounds really unhappy.

Check with a counselor on the progress of a senior who may be in danger of not graduating.

Feeling good and full of hope that it was going to be a great and productive day.

And then-- before I could take any other sticky notes off the computer -- it happened.

The day unraveled. Ever drop a spool of thread on a tile floor and see the thread wind its way aimlessly for what seems like an eternity.  Yes.  That kind of unraveling.

My radio started going off -- I am needed in guidance for assistance with a special education student with a serious issue.

Followed by a counselor reporting a social media crisis involving a a possible threat.

How about the students reporting that two students had possibly been inappropriate.

Trip to security cameras with assistant principals.

Back to social media issue with assistant principals and counselors.

Trip to classroom to get student to bring to office.

Back to assistant principal office . . .

Call parents of two students. . .

Counselor informs us of possible crisis situation with student.

Back to update on special ed student . . .

And it's parent-teacher conference day from 4 - 7:30 PM.

Wait -- is my throat scratchy.? Feeling a little feverish.  Now chilly.  Oh no . . .

Yes, I can do anything, but I cannot do everything, including staying up any longer writing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Be glad of life . . .

"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars." -- Henry Van Dyke

After a stressful couple of weeks of student high-stakes testing involving graduation requirements for both freshmen and sophomores, I have a rare evening at home as a high school principal.  After the school day ends, the second "day" of the school day begins.  In the winter we have wrestling, gymnastics, Boys BB, Girls BB, Swimming, Diving, Hockey, and Cheerleading contests.  We are also fortunate to have phenomenal performing arts programs, including a recent musical production of Mary Poppins and OMEA contests and concerts for Band, Choir and Orchestra.  When the bell rings at 2:42 PM every day the rest of the day starts.

And so when we have an evening at home, or even on the weekends, a free afternoon, it is a wonderful time to reconnect with family, enjoy personal activities, reflect, relax and relish the opportunity to wind down, or as Van Dyke puts it, "love, work, play and look at the stars."

What does that look like for me? A picture is worth a thousand words.

"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love. . .

My daughter and her husband epitomize LOVE and our time together makes my life glad.
and to work . . .

I LOVE my work.  It is a great joy in my life.  Here is our student section at a recent BB game!  Great kids!

This video is of our recent Chamber Orchestra performance at our Winter Concert.  They are amazing!

Our hockey team won the District Semi-final and needs one more win to make it in the Div I State Frozen Four!

and to play . . .

My husband and I love to XC Ski.  Here we are on the frozen creek behind our house.  

and to look up at the stars."

The stars? No. But we take great pleasure in looking at nature.  Here are 4 white-tailed deer in our backyard who stayed for almost 90 minutes raiding our squirrel and bird feeders.  Love it!

What brings gladness to your life?