Brave or Stupid?

Sometimes, in the quest for feedback we take action that can brave or stupid depending on the outcome.

Last week I created an anonymous survey that went to the entire staff.  It only had a few questions and allowed for complete anonynimity (except whether employees were administrators, teachers, secretaries, custodians, drivers, etc).  The survey also allowed for completely open ended responses.

I asked staff to provide feedback that I might grow from.  Areas for suggestions were in communication with staff and community, specific areas of strength, weakness, and areas in need of improvement.

Why would a Superintendent ask these questions of her staff?  The Superintendent evaluation is conducted by the Board of Education so what could this information possibly be used for?

There were two reasons I chose to ask the staff to provide feedback.

I read a blog about a teacher who invited student feedback from her classes.  It was remarkable and inspiring.  She asked students about content, projects, collaborating with classmates, assessments, and rapport with the teacher.  The student responses were amazing!  The teacher gained perspective, received valuable information, and grew through the process.  Who doesn’t seek growth so I thought, “Why not me?”

I wondered if I could do it…on a district level.

I also hoped to inspire the teachers in my district to do the same.  How can I expect them to ask for feedback from their students if I am afraid to ask it from them?

The second reason is what drives me every day.  It is the goal to improve my leadership so I may inspire teachers and educate students.  It is to persevere through challenging situations and find success from failure.  It is to strive for what is best in education even when it feels like the world is against me.

I am not sure what those survey results will reveal but I will read each comment, reflect, and apply the suggestions from a staff of educators I respect and honor. Brave or stupid?  Time will tell but I look forward with anticipation to becoming a better “me”.


What it Means to Appreciate Teachers

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and tomorrow is the final day to pay homage to our nation’s greatest gift – those who teach selflessly and tirelessly, with diligence and commitment to our students!

Each week I send a Monday Morning Message to the teachers in our district.  I have been doing this for almost a year and it has been a gratifying experience.  My “MMM” are not general reminders of items that are due or upcoming trainings.  They are words of praise and support.  I often share educational articles, blogs from colleagues, YouTube videos, stories, pictures, and even song lyrics I find inspiring!  Throughout this process we have all learned more about each other.  I always receive responses from the staff on my Monday Morning Messages.  The conversations I have had via email with teachers over the last year that I would not normally see on a daily basis have been exceptional!  All due to a brief message!  Two wonderful experiences occurred over the last week or so that I would like to share.

Recently, I was welcoming a newly approved staff member to the district during one of my walk through visits.  She took the time to say, “Thanks for all you do.”  I did not realize but she pointed out that in almost every one of my Monday Morning Messages, I tell the teachers, “Thanks for all you do.”  To hear her say it was humbling and wonderful.  I hope it has the same effect on the teachers in my district when I say it to them.

The second situation did not start out as wonderful at all.  Yesterday, in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week, we were notified by the Barnegat Police Department that we were to go into “shelter in place” status.  This meant that all school’s doors were to be locked and no one entered or exited.  For the remainder of the day yesterday, we had to count on each other to remain positive and calm while police sirens echoed through neighborhoods, which is not a common sound in our sleepy little shore community. Teachers inspired students, reassured parents, and assisted administrators during a very frightening time for many people.

We remained in contact with each other through email and messaging systems.  As I poured through dozens of emails over a day in a half, some amazing themes began to emerge.  Parents were complimenting teachers!  They were recognizing our staff for their dedication and patience, their positivity and loyalty!  Teachers were complimenting each other as well as administration for maintaining communication and a sense of calm throughout the situation.

I have often felt the phrase, “It takes a village” is so appropriate for education.  I have never felt I could accomplish anything in our district if it were not for the educators that I am lucky enough to call my colleagues.  I am grateful that I can go into any building in our district, greet teachers by name and receive hugs from warm, caring people who have dedicated their lives to teaching children!  What could be better?

I hope that as we close Teacher Appreciation Week, your village is a fabulous as mine.  There are always challenging days in education, but knowing there is an entire team of dedicated teachers standing with me through challenges like we faced yesterday inspires me to dig deeper, read more, and strive to be the leader they deserve.  Thanks for all you do!