Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Life changing magic. #summer #Fwords

This summer has been a summer of life changes, and a summer of magic. My daughter moved across the country, and I accepted a new job in a district closer to my home. I read more, and exercised less. I checked Philadelphia off my bucket list, the Statue of Liberty, and Yankee Stadium. And I connected with so many inspiring school leaders in person, and on Voxer and I learned a ton- my idea bag is full of ideas to start the year!

But I learned something else. About life, and about myself. Anyone who knows me knows I strive for, and struggle with maintaining a healthy work life balance. I tell my staff and my family and friends that it’s a priority, and it is. My move to a new district is an amazing opportunity, and a big piece of my decision was shortening my commute so I could spend time with my family, friends, and on myself.

I think about work life balance all the time. And I’ve come to the realization that it’s probably not something I can ever achieve REALLY… because my work is my passion, I love what I do, who I work with and I can’t shut it off- do I really want to? Or is it more about prioritizing things- work and health and family, so that what matters most gets done.

I’m not alone.

At the National Principals Conference in Philadelphia, there were a few running themes throughout the conference, both in sessions, and in conversations, that has continued all summer.

Prioritize relationships.
Play matters-- for kids and adults.
Work Life Balance and managing all that.
Social media is bad. Social media is good.
Happiness and health.

After the conference, challenges were created and blog posts were written about these themes and more. Read Jessica Hutchison’s post here. Cathy Jacob’s work-life-balance facade post here. And Jessica Cabeen’s post about breaking up with your phone here. And there are more!

One  thing I loved was the challenge to remove all apps from the home screen of my phone so I just see my family.


I don’t have email notifications on my phone, and some of my friends have removed it completely.

The social media struggle is real. Having technology in our pocket means inspiration and learning can happen 24/7, along with interruptions to family time or just me time if I let it.

And the F words.
It’s kind of a secret, but I’ve been reading an amazing book AND discussing it with some other principals. I haven’t posted on Goodreads. But in reality this book has been the  thing that tied all of this together for me this summer.

Wait for it.


It’s the best book! And it’s written in the style of another book I read this year:

Really, they are both about the same thing-- prioritizing things that give you joy and getting rid of things that don’t.

I have been trying to get rid of stuff since January, and in reading Sarah Knight’s book, I realized my mind has been cluttered with so many F words- things I should not be spending time or energy on. And taking time from things that bring me joy.

The other F words.


Those are the things I need to focus on. And so, this summer of F words comes to an end, and another school year is set to begin.

My challenge? Every Friday will be F word Friday! I’m hoping to celebrate and share little wins I have in these areas! I hope you will join me in the F words challenge-- and that can hopefully bring us all some life changing magic!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Can hamsters swim? Adventures in reading #lunchwiththeprincipal

We'll talk about the hamsters in a minute. Why am I talking about hamsters? Well, it's just one of the fun things that came up during my first ever Celebrate Reading lunches with the principal! This awesome idea came from my principal friend Rachael Peck who told me that she holds lunch with the principal days-- and the kids are chosen by their teachers for any reason around reading. Maybe they just love to read, or maybe they have shown growth. I loved this idea and decided to try it. I created a simple google form with just a few questions and picked a day. Here is the form and a snapshot of a few of the responses:

On the day of the lunch, the kids came to my office for their lunch time and brought their own lunch. We chatted about books, their favorite authors, what they are reading now, and had the best conversation! The kindergarten group wanted to know how books are made. We googled it and found this cool video and watched it while we ate. 

From 11:00-1:00 the different grade levels came and went in groups of three or four. I got some amazing book recommendations from them, and you can find that below. I even ordered one on Amazon during the 4th grade lunch. Thanks, Emily for the recommendation! Here are some pictures from the lunches.

peanut butter and marshmallow creme

So what about the hamster? Well... during the 3rd grade lunch the conversation turned to class pets and the previous year's Hamzilla, the class pet in one of our 2nd grade classrooms. One of the kids asked if hamsters can swim, and we googled that too! It turns out that like all mammals, they can, but they shouldn't. One of the kids suggested clicking on images after we searched the question, and we found the silly picture at the top! So funny!
What I learned from the lunches with the kids is that from TK through 5th grade, our students love to read! I asked the third graders what the best thing about third grade is. Their reply?

"We love the homework! Thirty minutes of READING!"

Over the last four years, as a school, we have really try to build a school culture around a love of reading-- and I can definitely say the kids LOVE to read. What a great day! Thanks, Rachael for the idea! I'm definitely doing this again.

Here are some of the current reads from these kids :) Such a diverse list!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Principal's Life #everywhere

I am not alone. I am not alone. Other principals share my struggle. It is impossible to be everywhere, and some days it feels like I'm nowhere but my office. Most days I feel like I don't connect enough. Get in classrooms enough. Hug enough. I am not alone.

Yesterday's Voxer conversation with my Principals In Action group started with a question from Scott Simpson, an elementary principal in Florida was just what I needed on my commute! How can we be everywhere? First, it is always a relief to just to hear that others struggle like me. And second, several ideas that inspired me and gave me some real actionable ideas that make me feel like I can do better, starting tomorrow.
  1. Brad Gustafson shared his idea that he tracks both relational and instructional rounds on a spreadsheet- collecting data as he goes to tell him where he's been, and where he hasn't.
  2. Shayna Peeff shared that on Mondays and Fridays she tries to get into all classrooms for a quick check in, and that on Tuesdays through Thursdays she focuses on a grade level or two for longer visits.
These two ideas inspire me to create a Google form to check in where I go and why. Is it a relationship check in? Or am I checking out student learning? Or connecting with one of our VIP students who might need some extra love?

Then, I thought about posting a QR code in each room so I could quickly scan to access the form, which includes a few questions, the room numbers, and a space for a few notes. Here is my QR code to access the form. Scan it to try it out!
Some principals wondered if teachers would mind that a QR code would be posted in rooms. If that's an issue, another principal suggested putting the QR code on a keychain. Or you could add a shortcut to your phone. Easy access to track visits. Where and why :) *** update*** I added the shortcut to my home screen on my phone. 

So, I may no be able to be everywhere, every day. But at least I will know where I've been! 

Are you wondering how to create a QR code? Just add a Chrome Extension to shorten your URL on the fly!
Add this extension in the Chrome Store

Shorten the url

Create the QR code!

Good luck in your quest to be #everywhere! If you make this idea better, and I know you will, please share! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Keep calm and keep calm

This was me yesterday. 

My first sick day this year, and the first time I've had the flu since 2012! I was definitely not making it to work. After going straight to bed at 4:30 the day before, I woke up at my usual time and sent off an email letting my team know I wouldn't be in. And then I went back to sleep. And I didn't worry at all.

I ended up sleeping off and on until 3 that afternoon. It was just what I needed. Did I think about my school throughout the day? Absolutely. But I didn't worry at all. I felt calm. I was able to rest and take care of me. 

I've been working hard at this calm thing. And I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. Here are some things that help me practice being calm so I can stay calm when things get rocky. 

1. I listen to instrumental piano on my commute to and from work every day. My favorite? George Winston Pandora. I love the quiet start and finish to my work day. Here is one of my favorites - Collage by Silvard (a mix with The Rainbow Connection)

On Facebook yesterday, Oprah posted something about the best morning routine for your zodiac sign. Coffee and quiet music? Nailed it! Check it out here.

2. I have been working hard to practice gratitude. Whether it's by sending a card or appreciating someone in person, or even just writing things down in my Panda Planner that I am grateful for, I find that intentionally being grateful helps me feel more positive throughout the day.

3. I choose my attitude. Traffic is a huge bummer, and lately with all of the rain there has been a lot of it both to and from work. Today a 35 minute commute took me an hour and 20 minutes. I was going to be cutting it close. In years past I would have been upset and worried. But lately I've taken a different attitude about traffic. It's a chance to notice the clouds, to breathe, and to be still. I am rarely still at work. So, traffic still isn't my favorite, but I'm choosing to embrace it as an opportunity to be mindful. Maybe it's a sign to slow down. People sure drive more safely when traffic is slow!
Mindfulness in motion. Or not. Traffic stopped...
4. I surround myself with positivity. Here are a few signs in my living room that make me happy.

5. Perhaps the biggest change that has helped me to be more calm is not me at all. I've really tried to build capacity at school so that we all lead together. I say yes when people ask if I need help. We are a team. And yesterday, when I was sick, and this morning when I arrived a little late, I had total faith in the team at our school-- this is why I didn't worry. Drop off? No worries, awesome parents and our custodians had it covered, disco ball speaker and all. This was my view this morning when I arrived late:
Vini, our custodian rocking the crosswalk!
Francisco and Roger, our other two custodians
and Terry, a parent-- greeting kids at drop off!
One campus supervisor out sick? No worries, our office team had it covered before I arrived at work today. Teacher goes home sick? No sub? No worries! Our teachers step up every time, embrace a few more kids for the day and the days goes on without a hitch. No principal? No problem. Amy Kahler leads our school as our TOSA and I have total confidence in her when I am gone, planned or unplanned. I am so thankful and grateful to be surrounded by amazing people. 

It takes a village. And it's so much better if we don't try to do it alone. 

And so I practice being calm. And when the bumps come, and they do, I'm ready.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Unicorns and rainbows. #joy #sparkle

I've seen the posts on Facebook. The ones where people say they are tired of people who just post happy stuff. That it's fake.
No one's life can possibly be all unicorns and rainbows.

Are they talking about me?  Sometimes I think so. I don't lead a perfect life, far from it, but I do try to post positively on social media.
Sunsets. Clouds. Cute kids. Books and people I love. Quotes. Things that inspire me. Kittens.

I get it.

I understand that people might think I'm not real, that my life is all sparkle and sunshine.
It's not. I struggle. I am afraid.
Life can be exhausting and frustrating. I need to exercise more.
We need a new roof.

But there is a reason I post happy thoughts and positivity from the land of unicorns and rainbows.

Do you remember Hanz and Franz?

I'm kind of old, so I do! And every day I'm looking for joy- positive things in life that pump me up emotionally and power me throughout the day. Finding things to be grateful for. That remind me to be happy even when I'm not feeling that way.

This is where the sparkle came from- a tough year I didn't think would ever end, years ago. That year, I started wearing sparkly things as a reminder to myself to stay positive, to smile, and that eventually, hopefully, I would feel better.

The whole fake it 'til you make it thing.

This is why my closet is filled with sparkly things. A little secret about me... if you see giant sparkly jewels on me, first they are FAKE. Second, I might need a hug. Third, I'm not at all fancy but I believe in sparkle power- a glittering necklace or bling-y ring can remind me that joy might be just around the corner!

So the next time you see me post, know that I'm just a regular girl with hopes, dreams, and my own problems.

Personally, I think unicorns and rainbows are pretty awesome.