Sunday, October 16, 2016

Leadership Lessons #maroon5

I love to write. I need to write. And I haven't blogged since JULY. Actually, that's kind of true. You see, I write blog posts in my head all the time. When I'm walking, and driving-- inspiration is everywhere. And once in awhile a post makes it out of my head and onto the page. This post is inspired by two things I saw yesterday. One, a post by George Couros "Blogging Is Your Job", where he wrote,
"People may ask, “Why do you have to blog? Why not just reflect?” 
 When you reflect on your own, you are accountable to yourself. 
When you blog, you are accountable to yourself and others. 
 Others need to hear your voice." 

So, there was that post challenging me to make time to write. And there was also THIS.

Yes, that's Adam Levine and I was 7 rows up from the stage when this blog post started writing itself in my head. As I watched the concert, I couldn't help noticing how EVERYTHING I saw was a leadership lesson unfolding right in front of me.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on what it means to lead like a rockstar. And how it has nothing to do with flash or sparkle or being larger than life. At a recent CUE Rockstar Admin camp at Skywalker Ranch, a superintendent asked if we really want districts and schools to be filled with rockstar leaders. Such a great question, and it really got me thinking. In that moment, I realized that I may have created a perception that leading like a rockstar means something I did not intend. That you have to dance every day. That you need a disco ball speaker. That you need to go on a slide. These are things I do, but it's not really what leading like a rockstar is really about at it's core. But I couldn't really find the words to explain it.

Until last night. 

And so, here is my reflection. 
Leadership lessons from Maroon 5.

1. Be All In.
From the moment Maroon 5 hit the stage, they were all in for almost two hours straight. Intense. Focused. Passion and energy permeated the arena, all the way to the roof. As leaders, we need to be all in for our schools, and every day we need to bring passion and energy and an intense focus on our work so that we can make school the best we can for kids. Even when we are tired and feel like we can't. Last night's concert was the second to the last date on the entire tour, and the whole band was all in like it was the first night.

out in the crowd
2. Focus on 100% Engagement
What does 100% engagement look  like? Last night it was 19,000 people on their feet dancing and singing for the entire Maroon 5 show. "Isn't that what you do at a concert?" you ask? Yes, it is, but for the two opening acts,  even with the flashing lights and sound, I actually don't recall seeing anyone on their feet, and certainly not the whole place. Why was it different with Maroon 5? Because we know and love the band and the songs! Isn't this when you get 100% engagement in classrooms? When kids know and love their teacher and are excited about the content? When it's being delivered in an engaging way? When the classroom culture is established so that all kids are all in for their learning? It doesn't have to be flashy, either. It could be 100% of kids fully immersed in books on the floor and around their classroom. Maroon 5 had us 100% engaged the whole time. All 19,000 of us. Unreal. A real-life, four C's, totally rad lesson plan rolled out before me. If only school felt like the video for Sugar when Maroon 5 crashed several weddings in one day!

Pointing out his awesome guitarist!
3. Celebrate your crew.
My seats were actually somewhat behind the stage which gave me an awesome behind the scenes view- we could see the artists coming from below the arena, the movement of equipment, and even the fog machine. Behind the curtain, and on the stage, countless people were responsible for the incredible show- each with an important role. The kind of magic Maroon 5 displayed doesn't happen by accident, and is the result of hard work by a ton of people who we may never even see. In addition to the arena staff, there were at least 11 people on or around the stage, probably more, changing out guitars, pushing buttons, changing the lights, checking sound levels and playing in the band. Adam Levine celebrated his crew multiple times during the show, calling several out by name, and being sure we all screamed loudly to appreciate them. As leaders, we must celebrate our crew-- every person on our campus plays an important piece in  the "show" we put on every day. Everyone --the maintenance team, campus supervisors, food services, office staff, the IT team, teachers, instructional assistants, parents, and students. How can we intentionally celebrate our crew every day? We need to show appreciation in big and small ways so that everyone feels valued and important. Little notes, a hug, a thank you, a complimentary email, or even a public shout out on your Twitter or Facebook can make a huge difference.

notice the shirt
4. It's HARD work and it's worth it
At the start of the show, Adam had on a flannel type shirt. After about 10 minutes in he ripped that off and the crowd went wild! While everyone else was thinking about the fact that he had ripped his shirt off, of course I was writing this blog post in my head... and I thought about how when we are all in and bringing our best for kids, it is HARD work! It's messy, and although we don't necessarily get hot and sweaty like the band, we can sometimes be exhausted by it all. Did Adam complain that he was getting hot? No way! Adam took off his shirt, got comfortable, and settled in for the rest of the show. In reality he was in the midst of a  two hour physical workout- all so we could have this MAGICAL experience. Our days can feel like a Maroon 5 level workout sometimes, but the kids are worth it! And we all have it in us to dig deep even when it's getting a little hot on the job :)

5. Every band needs a front man
When I think of Maroon 5, I think of Adam. He's the name I know, the guy in the spotlight. The rest of the crew is important, but every band has a leader out in front, setting the tone and having the conversation with the crowd. Last night it was Adam Levine, and in our schools it's usually the superintendent or principal who is the public face, the person who sets the tone for the whole school or organization. Being the front man means being vulnerable sometimes. Last night, during the encore set, Adam introduced his new song that had been released the day before and he talked about how he was nervous about that. Adam Levine nervous? I would never have thought that, but I love that he shared it. Sometimes it's tough to be in the spotlight, to be the front man. To be vulnerable. But we desperately need strong leaders with clear vision and big hearts and dreams to be out in front for our kids.

6. Nobody wanted to leave
After the last song of the show, the band exited the stage.  People kept clapping and cheering, hoping for an encore. I saw lights flickering around the stage, and for a moment thought it was the lights of cell phones leaving the arena. I kept watching and I noticed that no one was leaving. No one. Everyone wanted more. As a person who has attended many, many games and watched arenas empty before the final buzzer just to avoid traffic, I was stunned. No one wanted to leave. The lights? It was cell phones lit up like lighters from the past signaling them to come back out for a song or two. We wanted more Maroon 5 magic. More passion. More music. This was perhaps the biggest a ha of the night for me. How can we make school feel like this for kids? That they love it so much they can't wait to arrive each day? How can we make our organization a place people will never want to leave? To really build culture in schools and districts you need to hire and retain the best people. I left last night feeling even more committed to being a leader who makes school a place that people love to be a part of, committed to building relationships with staff, students, and families as a top priority every day.

I never expected last night's concert to inspire a post about leadership lessons. There are REAL rockstars, like Maroon 5 and Adam Levine, and there are rockstar leaders. As I shared before, leading like rockstar has really nothing to do with a disco ball speaker or dancing with kids every day, although those are things that I do to set the tone in our school, there are SO many amazing school leaders out there who embrace rockstar leadership in different ways. Some are all in, being the front man, and doing the hard work in rolling out new technology in their school or working hard on analyzing data to inform instruction so that every student grows. Some are celebrating their crews by making phone calls home for awesome kids or writing positive notes to students. And all of them are learners- being inspired by and taking note of what others are doing in their schools and organizations so they can try the ideas in their own schools. I always say that the best things happening in my school are inspired by what I have learned from others. Even Adam Levine is inspired by other rockstars :)

Leadership Lesson: You are the real rockstars.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Are we there yet? #summerPD #PCT

"Are we there yet?" From the time I was little, every road trip, every plane ride, every vacation included this question. And when my kids were little, they asked it, too. Always focused on the destination which often seemed far away.

And then the other day I was hiking near Carson Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail with my husband with Showers Lake as our destination. And in my mind, I heard the question:

Are we there yet?

So focused on the destination, and yet all around me the most beautiful views you can imagine. As I stopped at to capture moments with my camera, it hit me. Life, and our work is about the journey. This summer has been an interesting one as I realized there is no real way for me to separate my life from my work-- my work is my passion-- and every lesson I learn along the way has meaning for me as a friend, a wife, a mom, and as a leader. And so, in spite of those who say educators have "summers off", I offer this-- learning can happen everywhere! Even on a hike. This blog post was composed mostly in my head along the 12.2 mile journey, and it was somewhere near the top of the mountain when we weren't quite there, unsure if we would EVER arrive at Showers Lake that the title revealed itself: Are we there yet?

Lesson #1: Look
Notice everything. The sky, the color of blue, the clouds, or in this case the magic of a cloudless day. The reflection of the water. The colors of green. And in our daily lives, notice the people around us, their eyes, their smiles, the expression on their face. Don't miss a moment.

Lesson #2: Listen
Quiet is powerful. As we hiked together, I listened to birds, and beetles, and the sound of the wind in the trees. Several times we stopped to cross streams which involved me, unbalanced, navigating across rocks. 

And then I stopped to listen to the sound of the water.  Click below to listen :)
We need to listen more to each other.

Lesson #3: Learn
In my life, I struggle with balance and technology can be overwhelming. But even on this hike I was exploring and learning with technology. The sound of the water I recorded with AudioBoom, a podcasting app, and the picture below is one of my first attempts at taking a 360 picture with the Google Street View app. And I even tracked our progress using All Trails and GPS so I would know IF WE WERE THERE YET!  And after 6.2 miles in, we arrived. Yes! I don't think you can view them properly in a blog post, but I was so excited to learn how to do this! I TRIED embedding code below... can you see them?

Lesson #4: Laugh
Take time to be silly, have fun, and do things that make you laugh. It feels good! Selfies are fun.

Lesson #5: Conserve Your Battery
In life and in work, we have a limited amount of energy, just like our phones! Had I left all of my apps open and the internet on, I would have not been able to track our progress, to record the stream, or to capture images that I didn't want to forget. To conserve my battery while hiking, I always put my phone in airplane mode, which allowed us to hike for over 6 hours and never run out of power. So too, in life, we need to disconnect, to relax, to rest and recharge so that we can bring our best selves to our life an our work. 

In this way, we can enjoy the journey, finish strong, and reach our destination!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Inspiration Avenue #NAESP16

Before I ever write in my notebook, or type on my computer, I write blog posts in my head. It's one of the reasons I love my commute and that I need to run. So many ideas swirling around in my head that have no hopes of coming together as a cohesive post without serious think time. And usually, my thoughts will remind me of a book I've read. This week is no different, and on my drive home from Truckee today I couldn't stop thinking about this book by Sir Ken Robinson.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it-- it was eye-opening for me on both a personal and professional level. The basic premise: you are in your element when your passion and talents collide-- when you feel successful and are doing what you love.

For the past three years, I feel like I've really been in my element- I'm lucky to work in a place that encourages, and even expects me to follow my passion, to take risks, and supports me in doing so. I feel good about the work I am doing, and I still have so much to learn!

Where am I in my element? You'll find me at the corner of Inspiration Avenue and Connected Street, in a place accessorized with piles of books, pictures of sunsets, motivational quotes, and of course a little sparkle!

Connected Street? Before we go too much farther, I have to share that being connected is not what you might think. Often we hear people talk about being connected and that that means "being on Twitter,"  or that if you're not on Twitter that you are not connected. Twitter (and tools like Voxer) can definitely enhance and accelerate your connections, and expand the number of people you can reach. But being connected is so much more- and it's really about building relationships and finding passionate people to push and inspire you. This image by Sylvia Duckworth captures it well, I think.

image link
But this week at NAESP, something happened. My personal and professional worlds collided when my husband joined me in Washington DC a few days before the NAESP conference. When I originally applied to present In DC, I thought it would be a great opportunity to visit our nation's capitol, and I'd never been there before. My husband is a SERIOUS history buff and I knew he would love it. We arrived in DC a few days before the conference, planned some sightseeing and bought tickets to see his favorite team, the Milwaukee Brewers, play the Nationals.

And it was there that I realized that I really had never shared my ELEMENT with my husband. I know he knows I love my job, and am passionate about the work that I do. But I'd never shared much with him about being connected, about blogging, or even presenting. It wasn't a secret or anything, but more that we really had never had education in common until this year when he became a teacher for the first time.

If I had to describe his element, I'd say he is passionate about coaching and teaching, and about baseball and history. But we had rarely discussed our passions, education, or our work much until this year. In the past, we had our kids to talk about, and softball. And all of a sudden our kids were grown.

After 25 years of marriage, somehow we are just beginning to learn about each other and our own interests and passions. 

The week before our trip, I saw Sam's new classroom for next year, and he showed me pictures of his classroom that he had moved out of. It was filled with Life Magazines, college pennants, and his life-sized Darth Vader stood in the corner. How had I never seen his classroom before? It was filled with his passions and interests from ceiling to floor.

In DC, Sam saw a side of me he hadn't seen before- the sparkly me, the one that lights up and is bubbly. This is the me that comes out at work, and definitely when I'm at that corner of Inspiration Avenue and Connection Street. But I'd rarely showed it at home. I don't know why.

And so, I continue to learn. In the next year, I'm so excited to continue my journey to find more balance between life and work. It's hard when your work is also your passion! But I am also excited to embark on a new journey-- one that includes sharing my passion with my family and learning more about Sam as he finds his own Element. I can't wait to see where his passions and talents collide!

Where are you in your Element?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Quality Time #NAESP16

First, full disclosure. It's a REAL goal of mine to write more often and to write shorter posts when I do write. All this week during my time in DC for the 2016 NAESP conference, I've been composing blog posts in my mind... and they were getting pretty long. And yet, I couldn't find the right words to put on the page. I decided it would be better to write a few short posts. We'll see if I'm successful at keeping this one brief!

This morning I wrote my first post since March on the plane ride to from DC to my connecting flight in Dallas-- and I wrote until my laptop battery died, charging it up promptly upon arrival in Texas. 

And then my flight was delayed. Seven hours in the Lone Star state waiting for thunderstorms to clear. I read a little and wrote in my notebook, going old school with paper and pen, preparing for two book chats later in the week.

Interestingly, the chapter I'm reading in Hacking Leadership is all about building relations ships, and Joe and Tony talk about balancing real time and virtual connections- it's not enough to send emails or thank you cards, or to connect just face to face.

And it reminded me of a book I had read recently--The Five Love Languages. Truly, this book is about building relationships with your spouse, and understanding what fills your love/happiness bucket. Full disclosure- I heard about it from Jen Duston, another principal I'm connected to on Voxer, and was interested in the content--but not really reading it related to my marriage at first. I read it in one night and my mind was blown- and I realized that this book has real relevance for ANY relationships - at home or at work.

Fast forward to NAESP this week, where I was SO excited to meet so many principals who I considered friends but most I had never met face to face. We hugged, we rode the ferris wheel, we laughed, we learned, and we had real face to face conversations about our life and our work and our passions. This picture was taken the first day of the conference and it seemed like we had known each other forever!

The second day, we decided to ride the ferris wheel. Yep, eight principals do fit in one car! 

The third day, the conference ended earlier than I had expected, so Brandon Blom and I Ubered out to sightsee since our flight didn't leave until the next day. So hot, and so fun!

So, remember that balance of virtual and face to face connections Joe and Tony were talking about in their book? Months of corresponding via a walkie-talkie app had allowed us to build relationships prior to arriving in DC -- and it was SO awesome to spend real, quality time together!

And that's when I realized that we were all speaking the same language! Seriously, MY two top love languages are words of affirmation and quality time. This conference was filled with positivity, inspiring words and moments I will treasure forever. My bucket is full!

Check out these #NAESP16 blog posts by Todd SchmidtLiz GardenLindsy StumpenhorstMark FrenchNick ProudBrandon BlomKas NelsonBrad Gustafson, and Lynn Colon - enjoy!
The graphic below describes the qualities of the five love languages, and if you haven't read the book, take a few minutes to take the quiz and see what your love language is-- it was eye opening for me, and really I think would be powerful to know about our colleagues or significant others.

Dreams #naesp16

Washington DC is a city filled with dreams. Everywhere you look, statues and monuments honor the dreamers of the past. Quotes fill the walls with powerful messages that are both timeless and timely as we continue to struggle as a society to navigate our world and each other.

If these are the dreamers of the past, then who are the dreamers of our future? 

We must be the dreamers. 
We must inspire our children to believe in the impossible.
We must imagine a world filled with love and beauty and kindness and peace and we cannot stop believing this dream can come true.

In his closing keynote yesterday, Pedro Noguera spoke about the children in our schools. He spoke about small children who carry large burdens that they cannot explain. He spoke about schools that are failing-- with high test scores-- because they are failing to capture the imaginations of their students. 

As school leaders, every day we touch the future. And now, more than ever, I am sure that the purpose of school is not for students to learn facts or to get grades, but to prepare our students for a future that does not yet exist but that will require them to be able to problem solve, to work together, to communicate, and to create the most amazing world they can dream of.

Schools must become the place where everyone in the building learns to live with kindness and understanding, where we must hold hands and arrive with arms wide open each day, ready to embrace each other with love. 

Schools must become a place where students discover their passions and where dreams are ignited. Pedro Noguera shared, "You can't buy culture. It comes through relationships and honest conversations." The culture of our schools will become the culture of our future. Am I doing enough in my school to learn the story of every single person in our school community? Are we building the relationships together that will sustain our future?

Walking through DC, I kept taking pictures of things that inspired me- quotes, clouds, and even the reflection of the water.  I wanted to remember the feeling I had walking through a city filled with so many dreamers who believed in our future. I wanted to remember the moments with my history-loving husband in our first time in our nation's capitol as he saw it through the eyes of a teacher celebrating the end of his first year in the classroom.

Talking on the phone yesterday, my husband asked me why I liked to go places to learn, like attending this conference in DC. After thinking for a moment, I realized that the learning that happens when I go somewhere, whether it's at a local conference, a far away location, or even on a walk, is not about learning a skill or a tech tool. The real learning comes from the conversations that push my thinking and from the ideas and inspiration. The real learning comes from the connections and the hugs and learning that I'm never alone. The real learning comes when I leave with dreams for our future and feel empowered to change the world, even if it's just by holding one tiny hand at a time.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. 
Will you dream with me?