The Biggest Problem Ever

The Biggest Problem Ever

It is easy to talk about different perspectives, but it is much more difficult to actually view a situation from someone else’s perspective.

Teacher’s Perspective

Imagine your classroom with a broken pole. It is a metal hollow casing for drop down wires and is haphazardly leaning to one side. It is not holding the ceiling up, it is not going to cause the whole building to fall apart if it breaks, but it is causing you a lot of stress. As much as you may warn your students to “Stop walking past that pole! It is going to fall over and hurt you or the jagged bottom may cut you!” your lovely students just do not quite seem to grasp the severity of the situation.

And apparently, neither does the administrator.

Yes, the administration team is busy scheduling standardized test, dealing with discipline, talking to the parents that are upset their child got a B on a test, making sure there is coverage during all the passing periods, attending PLCs, completing walk throughs and formal evaluations, 504s, IEPs, LPACs… I am sure I am missing a ton of more things, but I think you get the picture.

Quite frankly, to you, none of that matters until your pole is fixed!

Administrator’s Perspective

You have just gotten chewed out by a parent about their child getting detention for skipping class, your supervisor is asking when the new master schedule is going to be complete, its 2 P.M. and your soup is cold and untouched, and you just got five more discipline referrals.

In walks a teacher. As she starts talking you realize you can now add some broken pole in a classroom that needs to get fixed to your to do list. You mentally file that away in the low priority category and move on. You go ahead and start checking your emails while nodding your head in perfect increments to show the teacher you are listening while multi-tasking. Finally, you just have to cut the teacher off. You ask can this wait? You have important things to attend to first, but you will get around to it as soon as possible. You tell her to check back next week if it is not fixed by then.

As your office door closes you may or may not realize that a relationship has just been ruined. The work that teacher does every day has just been diminished to nothing. Being dismissive or condescending will only lead to a negative culture and every aspiring leader knows that culture can make or break a school.

A Great Leader’s Response

Some advise I was given when I started down my path towards becoming an educational leader was to:

Treat every problem like it is the biggest problem ever. 

My initial thought was this is a terrible idea! Would that not escalate a simple issue into something huge?

But imagine that same scenario about the broken pole. Only this time the administrator stops what he is doing. He turns away from the computer and gives you his full attention. He listens to your concerns and responds by saying he is sorry that there is an issue with equipment in your classroom. That he will put a work order in right away to get it addressed and ask if there is anything in the mean time that he can do to help make your classroom a safe environment for you and your students? Not only did the administrator say all of this, but he followed through. He checked in the next day to see that it had been taken care of and to ask if there was anything else you may need.

Wow. That is a simple conversation, and yet that would make all of the difference in the world. Hearing a teachers concerns are valid and that they will be addressed in a timely manner is all a teacher needs. There is renewed faith in your leadership and ability see the teacher’s perspective and create a positive culture for the school.

As the administrator, you may know that a pole used to encase drop down wires is not load bearing and really does not effect the room. It probably would be very low on your priority list, but that does not matter to you. Being able to see the perspective of your staff and to empathize with their needs will separate you from the good leaders and define yourself as a great leader. Treating that simple problem as the biggest problem of the day has made your staff feel validated, important, and worth your time.

 

6 Tips from an Aspiring Administrator

6 Tips from an Aspiring Administrator

I have been very blessed by the team of administrators that I have worked for in my time. This year I am working on getting my administration certification. I have had several people ask me if I was crazy. Even more people warn me about the time commitment that comes with becoming an administrator. Yet, I have also experienced such an outpouring of support from “my people”. This includes the people I work with in the Fayetteville Public School system as well as everyone who has supported me as I have pursued my career in education.

One of the most common pieces of advice that I have received is that being a department chair is not enough; everyone applying for an administrative position is a department chair. I must do something to distinguish myself from other people. I have been given an amazing opportunity to work with other aspiring leaders in my district through a cohort in Fayetteville Public Schools. We have met together to discuss characteristics of leaders, how to be a leader in a school as an educator, and how to pursue your dreams of becoming an administrator. During our meeting I was presented with several great ideas on how to grow, but a few really stood out as things that I could improve upon.

Have a digital footprint

Well, here I am! In today’s digital world you need an online presence. If a team is about to interview you for a position, they are first going to search for you on the internet. What will they find when they enter your name?

Having a digital footprint does not mean that you have to write your own blog or publish articles online. It simply means that you need to have some form of online presence.

You can achieve this by being active on social media. Not only does social media provide a way for you to network, but there are also amazing resources being shared all of the time. If you create a lesson on a public platform such as Kahoot, Quizizz, Educreation, and other educational apps, then make sure you have your name on it. These are all ways for you to leave a mark on the digital work.

Know your lid size and how to raise it

The idea of your lid comes from John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Law’s of Leadership. The concept is that your lid is your knowledge and leadership capacity. If you are at a 7, then only people with 7 or below you will want to work for you. If you are going into an interview with a lid cap of 4, then the administration team will be looking for someone with a higher lid than yours.

Now, it is not expected of you to have a lid capacity of 10 in everything. That is simply not possible. As an educator you need to have your areas of expertise and continue to learn and stay current in those areas. It is okay to have weaknesses as long as you can surround yourself with people who can lead with you to raise the lid consistently across the board.

Ask for help

Trying to do everything by yourself is impossible and it is not something that is expected or even valued in education. When preparing for your first interview or first day on the job as a new administrator, situations will come up or questions will be asked that you won’t know how to answer. Be humble and find a mentor who can guide you through this process. All current administrators had to start at the beginning, too. They know where you are and can help you along the way.

timeVolunteer for committees

Time is a luxury that teachers and educators unfortunately do not have much of. Having said that, if you are ready to take your next step into a role as an educational leader, then you must make time to volunteer. Different committees will provide opportunities to learn as much as possible. This gives educators an opportunity to branch out from their disciplines. Being well rounded with at least a basic understanding of all areas is crucial to be a successful administrator.

Get involved: conferences and organizations

Being a life long learner is part of the job in education. There are always new researches coming out with better ways to individualize instruction, new approaches with technology, and ways to collaborate as a team that will lend themselves to better student achievement.

Joining organizations such as AAEA, NASSP, and ASCD will provide resources to help you make that transition from the classroom to office in a school. You should also attend conferences that will give you hands on experience with the new professional development being brought into schools.

Presenting at these conferences is an added bonus. I am sure it is not hard to imagine, but from my experience teaching adult educators is way more challenging than teaching children. It takes practice, so apply all of the time for any conferences you can to present.

Leave a legacy

Lastly, when you leave one position you need to make sure you have left a legacy. This is extremely important to me as I am one of the first math specific ESL teachers in my school. I am definitely the first ESL caseload manager that is a math teacher.

It has been my goal to help write and develop the curriculum for the high school math team while keeping our ESL population in mind . This has included doing professional development on math strategies for ELLs and working with teachers in my building on modifying classroom assignments and assessments to meet the needs of our students.

When I leave this position I want to have made a difference in the lives of the students that I have taught, but I also want to leave a legacy for the next person who will come in and take my position.

The tagline for this blog is “learning through educating”. In education, my students teach me every day even though I am supposed to be the one doing the teaching. I learn new ways that students view the world and how their minds work. They challenge me every day to be a better teacher. I know that when I am ready and take my first job as an administrator, the educators in my building will be teaching me as well. We are all in this career together and must better each other every day and be what the next generation needs us to be.

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! I am just a math teacher writing about my experiences in education. In my seven years as educator I have yet to go through an entire year without hearing from a parent, “I am not good at math, so I cannot help my child.”

It has become socially acceptable for people to be “bad at math”. This is a mindset that must be changed. An experience this past weekend got me thinking about math literacy.  I was at the baseball fields watching my son when another parent asked me how to spell something. Before I could answer she immediately said, “Oh wait you are a math teacher; of course you won’t know how to spell it!” She laughed and turned around to ask someone else.

Although I knew it was a lighthearted jab, I was bothered by this interaction. There is this stigma surrounding math. If you get math, you are a different breed. Math isn’t something that everyone can learn. This simply is not true.

I decided it was time for me get out of my comfort zone and to start my own blog. Will my writing be as good as my husband’s who has a creative writing major? I would certainly hope not. After all, he spent thousands of dollars and five years of his life learning how to write beautifully. I would also not expect him to be able to write out the proof for why you cannot divide by zero. Every person has their strengths and weaknesses, but we always need to try and grow.

It is not socially acceptable to be illiterate in language, therefore it should not be socially acceptable to math illiterate. As an educator, I should be a role model for my students. I ask my students every year to step up and become a leader. I ask my students to grow in areas they are the weakest. I should expect the same of myself.

So here I am. Growing as a leader by sharing my experiences in the classroom with you. I will also be sharing what I have learned in books I am reading, and articles that I discuss with my Personal Learning Communities. I am always looking for the next great book to read, technology to use in my class, and learning the best strategies to use to reach all of my wonderful students.

ENJOY!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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