Saturday, November 8, 2014

Be brave.

This idea of bravery has been on my mind for weeks. In both my personal and professional life, this concept has been front and center. Today, I finally finished my book club selection for this month. The Invention of Wings shares the story of many brave and strong women who persevere in spite of incredible hardships. The story is told from the point of view of several different characters, but throughout the book these women all share incredible bravery. Even when their beliefs or actions require them to make difficult decisions, they remain brave even when their choices are difficult and their families and the community may disagree.

In addition to brave characters in books, I also feel so fortunate to know many brave school leaders. I am connected to an awesome group of administrators through Voxer, a free walkie-talkie app that allows us to have a conversation anytime! 

My commute has turned into a mentoring session and the best PD ever as I catch up with school leaders from as far away as Wisconsin and as close as California. Over the past few weeks we have discussed so many topics that hit on this topic of bravery. 

Questions that really got me thinking: 

What are your non-negotiables? What is your core? What is going on with these stressed out high school students? 

As I listen to these administrators, I have hope. They are brave, passionate, and committed to students. Like the movie Miracle, when asked "Who do you play for?" there is no doubt that these administrators would say they play for #teamkid. Time and time again, as I listen to them, every single decision they make has kids at the heart of it. 

I've been having a hard time putting this brave leader idea into words, so I went in search of a quote to help capture what I've been thinking. This Divergent quote from Veronica Roth captured the feelings that I've been struggling with perfectly.

Before this year, I wasn't sure there were many brave leaders out there. Deedra Devine, my former principal, inspired me to be brave. I watched her make tough decision after tough decision that sometimes made teachers or parents unhappy. She told me that she could live with any decision that had what was best for kids in mind, no matter what. I will never forget that. I try very hard to be brave. And I would say that without a doubt our school is about kids. Over and over I see schools that make decisions with adults in mind. Or to appease the squeaky wheel. 

This has to stop. Kids need us to be brave for them. Everything from financial decisions, to bell schedules, to staffing, grading, and school procedures. Decisions have to be about kids. Decisions need to support teachers and coaches who are trying to do what's best for kids. 

It's hard to be brave. What does brave look like?

It means taking time to develop relationships every day.

It means holding the line when parents complain about the new curriculum, the new standards, "new" teaching practices, simply because it's not like when they went to school.

It means taking time to educate families and the community about what we are trying to accomplish together.

It means that maybe not everyone will like our decision, but it's worth it.

It means that even if your child doesn't play as much as you would like, it does not mean that the coach is not a good one.

It means trusting kids and teachers with technology, and giving access to tools that connect teacher and students. Social media is a game changer that must be a part of education. Check out the Common Core standards for digital writing--- collaborative writing in kindergarten, using a variety of tools, for a real audience. This is real and important. It may seem scary, but given the opportunity teachers and kids will do amazing things.

The court of public opinion is a tough one. Time and time again I hear of friends who are teachers and coaches who are considering giving up because it takes so much time and energy and emotion to fight the good fight. Sometimes it feels pretty thankless and we need to rally around our teachers and coaches. They need us in their corner. 

It's hard to be brave. But if we always keep what's best for kids as our top priority when making decisions, it won't be easy, but it will be worth it. 

I want to be brave. You can be, too. Let's be brave together.

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