In earlier posts, like here and here, I've mentioned the conversations I am having with principals, coaches, and leadership teams about the roll-up-your-sleeves hard work they are doing in their districts and schools using Indistar. Then I get to write the conversations up into narratives that tell the unique story of their journey. We had been calling these stories Success Stories, but then I had this philosophical discussion with myself and convinced others that maybe we should call them something else. "Success" can feel like an endpoint. And improving schools is more circular than linear. And even though I might hear a thousand successes in the progress they are sharing, these leaders understand that there is no finality to this work. This year's youngest class will be next year's sophomore class, and the cycle will start again with a fresh class. New teachers will come, veteran ones may go. Principals will change. Initiatives may shift. But the work of creating cultures of excellence, of improving adult practice, of customizing instruction so that every child sees themselves in it remains.
Last week, I sat down with a principal and a school improvement specialist from Albany, Georgia. Wow. Every conversation that I have with educators from South Dakota to Georgia and everywhere in between has been so different but so inspiring and informative. In every conversation, this is affirmed: we all have struggles that connect us, progress that motivates us, wisdom that guides us, differences that unite us, and children and colleagues that inspire us.
We can't wait to share these stories with you (and more). But in the meantime, use this space, IndistarConnect, to reach out to others, to share what you are most proud of (at this moment, of this year, in this week). What are you celebrating? What are you excited about? Tell us your proud thought and respond to another's.
Before I sign off, I'll provide a sneak preview of my latest story. Here are the top three things that the principal and his school improvement specialist identified as their "keys to success", the things that focus and advance their on-going work:
- Develop a culture of excellence. Have high expectations for teachers, for parents, for students. Let them know what is expected in terms of behavior, of performance, of success. Let them know what it will take and then make sure everyone does their part.
- Have a strong, strong leadership team. That does not mean have people who will agree with you. Have people who will tell you the truth, who will share their opinions, who are smart. At his first faculty meeting, this principal observed two teachers who were outspoken and vocal about their commitment to the school and the children and what was needed. He immediately put them on the Leadership Team. In their meetings, you will often hear the phrase: there is no wisdom in that. They use it when they know there is a better way to achieve their goal.
- Create a culture where people are willing to take risks, where they are not afraid to fail. Once you have that expectation of excellence and smart people around you, they don’t want to fail you, or kids, or parents. So they don’t try what might have been a great idea. Lots of people have great ideas but don’t have the opportunity or support to put those ideas into practice. That is what this administration encourages their faculty and their students to do. "How do we get our staff who are very talented and skilled, how do we encourage them to reach even further. That’s our next step and what we are most excited about."
As always, we'd love to hear your reactions in the Comment Section below. We'd also really love to hear your what you are most proud of right now. Start a Discussion, Add a Reflection, post it in your Activity Feed.
My new friends in Arkansas put me onto this teleconferencing/videoing software called Zoom. I had never heard of it but I am using it all the time. And it's free. No download required and way too easy to invite people to meetings (really, you will think, is that all?). There is the option for videoconferencing or just audio. There is even an app for that on your smartphone. You can record both audio and video sessions, which makes it really easy to enjoy the conversation and not worry about note taking along the way. Check it out.
Want to Get Interviewed?
We'd love to tell your story. We'll provide you with some prompts in advance if that helps and look forward to a fun and engaging conversation about teaching, leading, learning, and connecting. All of the things that we are passionate about. Trust me, you'll be so glad you did it. We'll turn it into a narrative and those who have done it are saying it's pretty incredible (and really powerful) to see all the work that you are doing laid out in front of you on pen and paper (well, paper and times new roman).