Right now, I am enjoying the holidays for a bit longer than most because I am “off contract.” As I may have mentioned before, in my new job I work a flex schedule. I am required to work most of the summer, but since I’m still on a teacher contract, I take extra days off during the year to compensate. Right now, it’s great. We’ll see how much I love it once summer arrives.

Earlier this week I had to come in for a meeting, even though I was “off contract.” It wasn’t a big deal, but it did consume roughly 4 hours of my time. I didn’t mind because I felt that I really needed to be there, and there would not be another opportunity to speak to that group until February.

However, in the context of the meeting, one of the participants brought up the fact that they’ve had duties added to their jobs that require them to be available to work off contract during the summer. She flatly stated that she would not be doing so. These duties are directly related to my own position, and I don’t like it either. Unfortunately, I’m not really a power player and don’t have the authority to pay them for the work. In fact, I have NO BUDGET, whatsoever, with which to do my job. It sucks.

I tried to diplomatically address the issue, but it was a tough sell. And it brought me to one of those age-old internal conflicts. I’ve wrestled with this issue within myself so many times, and I never seem to come up with a win-win solution.

As teachers, we are constantly working “off contract.” Every weekend that we spend grading papers, every time we stay after to tutor a student, every evening we spend planning the next day’s lesson–all of that is “off contract.” It amazes me that in this profession, you truly make more money if you choose to do a poor job (I’m talking hourly rate here). So, if we’re not getting paid, why do we do it?

The answer, for me at least, is easy. For the kids. We go above and beyond so that we can live up to that ethic that led us to the profession in the first place. We feel a responsibility to provide the best educational experience we can for our students.

The same ethic drives me even now that I’ve left the classroom. I will work longer and harder than I’m being paid for because I want to help students. But, having left the classroom, I found that another element became a part of my ethic. I also want to help educators–teachers, counselors, administrators. I want to do whatever I can to make their jobs easier, so that they can focus on helping kids.

Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself caught between a rock and a hard place, as I was at this meeting. The state board of education requires that certain student requests be processed year-round, even during the summer when there is no one at the school to do it. I coordinate this process for our district. I understand that it is unfair to expect people to work for free. Truth is, we can’t. But I also think it is unfair to delay these student requests, when doing so will delay their admission to college. I don’t have an answer–just frustration at this point.

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What IS going on? I cannot get into my Gmail account, and have been unable to do so ALL day. I can login to Google, but when I click on Gmail, I get the dreaded “page cannot be found” message. Even when I just try to go to Google’s Gmail page I get the same error. I’m really praying that it’s not some awful new filter at the district that’s blocking Gmail now, because that would be insane. Grrrrrr!

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I just wanted to offer a gentle reminder that I do update my Tech Resources Wiki pretty regularly. While it is certainly not an exhaustive list of resources, I do think I manage to locate some pretty cool tools for educators in my daily trek through the blogosphere. If you’re looking to kill time (though, seriously, what did time ever do to deserve such?), you might want to take a look.

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Yet another offering from my Ed.S. program. This time it’s my weekly reflection due to my afternoon professor. Enjoy ;)

    This time around I found that I was really drawn to a couple of key elements in the reading, Maxwell’s Leadership 101, due to their applicability to my own professional life and development as a leader. Maxwell’s focus on the stages of leadership, as well as his insistence that great leaders take on the task of developing and mentoring their successors, seem particularly appropriate to me as I venture onto the first rungs of the leadership ladder.
    Maxwell discusses the stages of leadership, and Dr. Berry also reviewed those stages in class, confidently asserting that most of us have made it to level 2, at which we at least know what we don’t know. I definitely feel that I am at level 2, acutely aware of my lack of expertise and experience. I find myself, for the second year in a row, in a new job, in a new place. This time, the setting is even more intimidating as I’ve made the move into the central office. Although my position is definitely an entry level one there, the expectations are high. As I was reading in the Maxell text, one of his suggestions really hit home. Maxwell cautioned that developing leaders take their time and allow themselves to fully develop their skills before attempting to advance into leadership positions they are not ready for. Too often, we let ourselves become too focused on advancement, without regard to our own readiness. One good thing I have experienced at the central office is an awareness of the many excellent leaders we do have at the district level. I know that I have much to learn from them, and that learning will definitely take time, more time than many might expect. But I think taking this time to learn and be mentored by others who are at higher levels of leadership can only benefit me in the long run.
    The other aspect that Maxwell mentions is a critical one for schools, and one I feel is missing in most: leaders mentoring and developing future leaders. In class on Saturday, one of my classmates made mention of the 20% of teacher leaders who tend to be the ones always asked to lead initiatives, those workhorses and go-to people who eventually get burned out from being relied on, and, some say, “dumped on,” too often. But there’s a big difference between being exploited and being acknowledged and offered opportunities to develop leadership. The best leader I have ever worked with has mastered walking that fine line. Quite simply, she is someone people can’t refuse. I’m not talking about a person who uses fear to prevent refusal. Instead, this is a leader who manages to make every request sound like such a great idea, who manages to make you feel honored to have been included, and who even manages to make you hope she’ll ask you to do this extra thing, which will likely be something you’re not even getting paid to do. But in addition to this talent, this woman has something else that makes it all work: She knows how to build leaders. And she does it by letting them lead, by providing opportunity, and by being available and offering guidance when needed. Unfortunately, I don’t see similar leaders much in the schools, leaders who are willing to take the time to nurture and grow other leaders. Both administrators and teachers need such mentors if they are to feel empowered and if they are to develop into leaders who can lead their schools, staff, and students to greater success.

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In the spirit of sharing, and because I’m actually doing a lot of writing right now, just not for this blog, I’ve included my most recent work below for you to enjoy. (I really hope you’re all sensing the sarcasm, here.) For my Ed.S., we are required to read and reflect on a number of texts. This is my response to our latest class reading, Smart Moves, by Carla Hannaford.

In Smart Moves, Carla Hannaford makes it clear that learning is certainly not all in our heads. Throughout this text, Hannaford emphasizes the necessity of understanding and using the connections between the body and the mind to facilitate and maximize learning in ourselves and our students. Even as the author focuses on the intricacies of the learning process and the many ways our bodies influence, create, foster, and sometimes, limit learning, she also emphasizes the importance of teaching, valuing, and developing the whole child. Again and again, Hannaford shares examples of how exercising the body can stimulate the mind and result in learning outcomes that both amaze and delight both learners and their teachers.

Hannaford emphasizes the importance of physical activity both before, during and after learning. She explains how the senses and our emotions are key players in the process of learning, even before we leave the womb. She describes how early childhood developmental milestones, such as crawling, are the building blocks of a child’s capacity to learn, as movements such as crawling “activate both hemispheres in a balanced way” (Hannaford, 92). Hannaford insists that real learning “starts with movement in response to a stimulus, then creates a context or experience to understand the sensory input” (99). Throughout, the author stresses the importance of teaching students in a way that honors the natural progression of skills and their bodies’ development. For example, she advocates postponing the emphasis on silent reading until after the age of seven, at which time students are more likely to have developed the inner voice that will enable them to accomplish the task successfully and with less frustration.

Much of what Hannaford recommends just makes good sense. While my high school English classroom was small and space was limited, many of Hannaford’s suggestions were commonplace in that space. I’m sure more than one administrator was less than happy about the noise level in my room. But I felt certain that learning required interaction with the material in many, varied ways. My students read, discussed, sketched, painted, taught, debated, wrote, play-acted, laughed and, I hope, learned. Hannaford affirms such practice, stating, “Most people need to discuss, write, or draw a picture of new ideas in order anchor them in the body with movement for memory and clarity of thought” (101).

Hannaford also details the impact of stress on the learning process, labeling those who are most afflicted by stress as SOSOH (Stressed Out, Survival-Oriented Humans) (145). She identifies a number of stressors that inhibit learning, from medical ones such as chronic ear infections to technological ones such as television, computers, and video games. Not surprisingly, Hannaford continues to make connections between these seemingly very different sources of stress, the body, and the mind. For example, chronic ear infections and the overuse of televisions, computers and video games can all contribute to an impairment of a child’s language acquisition. How? Hannaford explains that ear infections can affect hearing in general and can impact a child’s ability to hear the full range of harmonics. Over reliance on digitized sources of sound, such as that found in television, computers, and video games, does not expose children to the full range of harmonics. In both instances, children are being deprived and their language acquisition may be impaired since they are not being afforded the opportunity to hear and interact with the full range of a real human voice (Hannaford, 102). Again, it becomes clear that our classrooms must be places filled with many varied voices, the voices of our students as they teach what they’ve been taught, share their discoveries with each other, and practice the art of communication.

Throughout the text, Hannaford emphasizes the importance of relationships—the relationships between teacher and student, between body and mind, between heart and intellect. Hannaford insists that “It is the full activation and balance of all parts of our body/mind system that allow us to become effective, productive thinkers” (106).

Okay, so I still haven’t made a whole heck of a lot of progress on yesterday’s list. But here’s the thing: the TiVo is really acting up and Boston Legal starts in 40 minutes. I mean, priorities, you know?

At least I can check off a few items:

  • laundry
  • reading Smart Moves
  • reading Leadership 101 (I cannot find the *&(%$# book that I KNOW I bought)
  • writing a critique of Smart Moves
  • writing a critiques of Leadership 101
  • finishing the draft of our group’s research project
  • paying bills
  • planning my session for the NWP convention
  • ordering a new TiVo to replace the dying one we now have (like I have any time to watch tv)
  • watching last night’s episode of Desperate Housewives
  • exercising

Actually, I’m beat. And the blogosphere was dead today. I wonder–did everyone take the day off from blogging to go vote?

I couldn’t even make it an entire week of posting everyday–so much for my visions of fulfilling the commitment of NaBloPoMo. However, I’m not giving up!  I’m still going to attempt to post everyday for the rest of the month. It may not happen–hell, I’m out of town three days next week, presenting at NWP and going to my graduate classes in Cleveland. But I will try. At any rate, this is the most I’ve most in such a short time frame in quite awhile, so yeah for me.

This weekend was just too busy and I still feel like I’m behind. In fact, right now, I should be doing all of the following (and not necessarily in this order):

  • laundry
  • reading Smart Moves
  • reading Leadership 101
  • writing a critique of Smart Moves
  • writing a critiques of Leadership 101
  • finishing the draft of our group’s research project
  • paying bills
  • planning my session for the NWP convention
  • ordering a new TiVo to replace the dying one we now have (like I have any time to watch tv)
  • watching last night’s episode of Desperate Housewives
  • exercising

Okay, point taken. No more blogging for me tonight.

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I am feeling very frustrated with one aspect of my new and lovely Mighty Mouse. I cannot figure out HOW to get the right click to access those Windows right-click tricks I’ve come to rely on–namely, copy and paste. It’s driving me nuts. As much as I love the look of the mouse, and I really like that tiny little scroll wheel, I may have to go with some other, less beautiful solution if I can’t find the secret to making the right click work as I am used to. If you are a Mac addict who knows the secret to this, PLEASE let me know!

Otherwise, I think my new beautimous iMac is just about as lovely as a computer can possibly be. Those Mac designers know a thing or ten about aesthetics. It’s just such a gorgeous machine. I know, I’m gushing.

Update: The right click does work…sometimes. And sometimes, no matter how I hold my mouth and even if I’m not so much as touching ANYTHING to the left side of the mouse, I get nothing. Oh well–so much for form over function.

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I am so incredibly frustrated right now.

I am working on my Ed.S., and a big part of it revolves around a research project. I came up with a pretty good topic, one that is relevant to my current position and actually stands to benefit the district I work in (no small feat, believe me). I even managed to get it approved by our Office of Accountability (albeit after I don’t know how many revisions). And I got my professor to approve it as well.

So what’s the problem?

I have to secure the consent of every high school prinicipal in my district. I’ve already had two decline to participate.  Why, why, why?

I’m not asking them to do ANYTHING. All I need is their consent for me to include their students’ test data in the district averages. That’s it. And I’m not even going to be breaking out the data by school. There is NO risk to them. NADA.

But there is potential for good here. My research focuses on determining the relationship between remediation and exit exam scores. Does it work? If so, why? If not, why not?

If I cannot get the principals to agree, I’m not sure how to proceed. I don’t have time to come up with a completely different topic. My proposal is due Nov. 18. Bottom line, I have to sell this study to these administrators or I’m screwed.

AAAARRRRGGGG!

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I am in the process of getting my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership. We are reading all sorts of books on the subject, and I find myself getting a little tired of the repetition in these texts. Here’s what I’ve learned about leadership from these books:

  • Great leaders are great people.
  • Great leaders inspire those who follow them to be great people.

Alrighty, then. In all of these texts, the emphasis is on maintaining personal and professional integrity, being a great listener, a risk-taker (but not too much of one), and having the confidence to create a win-win sense of collaborative/team spirit within your organization.

I can’t say I disagree that these are all wonderful qualities for a leader to possess. But I’ve noticed others.

  • Someone people can’t refuse. Think about it. Have you ever worked for someone like this? I’m not talking about the person who uses fear to prevent refusal. I’m talking about those individuals who manage to make every request sound like such a great idea, who manage to make you feel honored to have been asked, and who even manage to make you hope they’ll ask you to do this extra thing (might even be something you’re not getting paid for). I seriously need this skill. I seriously don’t have it.
  • Someone who lets others lead. This is critical. Great leaders know how to get the ball rolling and then get the hell out of the way. But not disappear. They walk that fine line between being absent and being intrusive and micromanaging. They give support when it is needed. But they trust others to do a great job. And most of the time, others do.
  • Someone who’s willing to do the dirty work. This is another biggie for me. I find it difficult to respect a leader who thinks he/she is somehow beyond a certain task now. Don’t get me wrong–obviously there are tasks that should be delegated and obviously a leader can’t be expected to do everything. But, especially in education, leaders need to show those they lead (usually teachers and/or students), that they’re willing to get their hands dirty too. I’ll give a personal example: I used to teach at a high school where none of the administrators did lunch duty. The task had been completely delegated to coaches and teachers. The message that sent to the faculty? “We’re too busy and important to bother with this.” On the other hand, at my last high school, not only did teachers and coaches do lunch duty, but also EVERY administrator, INCLUDING the principal, EVERY DAY. By the way, that principal also did bus duty every day. What message do you think THAT sent?

So, what do you think are essential qualities for effective educational leaders?

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