Sunday, July 13, 2014

Teach Them How To Fish

A few weeks ago I picked up my son from open gym.  I experienced a large mix of emotions.  As he was scrimmaging with kids two to three year’s older, shirts vs. skins I saw my son growing up way to fast.  He is my first born child and will be ten years old in December.  Although he will always be my baby I realized I have less time with him now then I have experienced already.  In nine years he will be graduating from high school.  People are so right to say don’t blink.  I was very proud as I watched him scrimmage.  The older kids were much more skilled, but he hustled and embraced the moment.    This experience made me reflect upon whether or not I could have done that at his age.  Parenting is never an easy task as there is not a manual that comes with child birth.  Occasionally I ask my parents what they did when I did these things.  Often the answer is, we didn't have to deal with those things.  Well the fact of the matter is our students are impacted by many more challenges as our society operates much differently today. I have so much more to teach my son to prepare him for his future, to help him become the best person he can be and the years are flying by way to fast.

Sure there are different challenges with different generations of education, so I am not saying we need to go out of our way to make things easier on them.  What I do feel is that there is an important need more than ever to teach our youth how to handle raw emotion, communicate with others, and provide them with the skills necessary to be proactive and productive.  I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Jostens Renaissance conference in Orlando, Florida this past week. This years theme was the Joy of the Journey.   There was an extreme amount of energy from educational leaders, teachers and students.  It was great to see so many people focusing on the commitment for all students to graduate.  Thanks to Mark Brooks (@rockdog6912) and Frank Zucker (@jostensringguy) for this great opportunity.

Ninety percent of the conflicts I work with have developed in response to a lack of skill.  The students are lacking skills in dealing with emotions, conflict avoidance, and proactivity.  In most situations students have reacted based on their raw emotion.  From my experiences we have adults who struggle with this as well. One of my favorite sayings is that you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish you will have fed him for a lifetime. This week I have the opportunity to present to new administrators.  The topic I have been given is proactive discipline.  While preparing my presentation I began to reflect on my first few years as an administrator.  I was sitting in their shoes two years ago wondering whether or not I would know what to do in different situations.   Questioning whether or not I was ready for this or if I had enough experience.  Who am I to have tough conversations with parents as I am just a young parent myself?   I had a great team and staff who provided me the push to move forward with this professional goal.  I was excited, motivated and ready to learn.  To new administrators this is what I have learned.  It is a R.A.C.E., but one so worth running!
Accessing Technology

Everything you do as an administrator roots itself in relationships.  As a new administrator you need to get to know your staff, students and parents in order to build trust. They must feel that you are invested in them and care about them on a personal level.  This is a proactive skill.  By creating these relationships you lesson the likelihood of future problems.  When dealing with discipline seek first to understand then to be understood.  Take time to have one to one conversations and follow up quickly as it builds credibility.  It is okay to ask for help often.  You don’t have to have an answer right away and it is okay to tell them you’re not sure but will find the right answer.  Lucky for me I was surrounded by a great team who was always willing to help. (@casas_jimmy, @joykelly05, @mwdegner, @ColinWikan, and @krskillet)  I have had a wonderful mentor who has taken time to help me grow both professionally and personally. Thank you Joy Kelly.

One of my challenges is with the rapid increase of technology in schools.  The major issue is the lack of skills that our parents have in educating our children at home as they don’t have the knowledge themselves.  Our students have access to a much larger audience all around the world but don’t have knowledge about the impact it can have on their future.  It is our responsibility as educators to teach them how to embrace technology as a tool and not a toy.  It is also our responsibility to support and educate the parents at home.  We are a 1:1 school and I have learned a lot over the past few years about the challenges that come with making sure students can access technology.  It is a proactive discipline as well. 

Proactive discipline is a culture that must be developed in your schools.  The culture in a school is really based on the adults in the building.  We need to model the same things that we expect our teachers to do within their classrooms.  Plant the seeds, nurture, and help them grow.  We must provide clear expectations of excellence.  It is very important to infuse a sense of school pride and community.

As new administrators you will grow through experience.  You will make more decisions in a day then you could have ever imagined.  The conversations will get easier and your ability to ask the right questions will get better.  Always make decisions in the best interest of the students.   Again seek first to understand and then to be understood!  The days are very fast paced and you cannot measure impact on a daily basis, but you are not leaving the classroom.  Your classroom just got larger and much more diverse.  Enjoy the race and always remember to stop and drink some water.  Reflection is learning and learning is growing.  I wish you the best in your first year!

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