Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Top 3 Tips for the New School Year

All across the country summer is giving way to autumn, swimming pool fun is being pushed aside to make way for weekend football games. School supplies are being stocked and re-stocked in stores, and the school bell is ringing. It is the start of school!

Some school districts begin in late July and some begin the new year after Labor Day. It does not matter who you are or where you are from... one thing remains, it is a new beginning for us all. If you are teacher, you get a new set of students, a new lesson plan book, and a new calendar. If you are a parent, you get a front row seat in the viewing of your child starting a new year. This could be the year your child "breaks through!" If you are a student, you can forget about your past failures and struggles and start anew. Teachers, Parents, and students ranging from pre-K all the way to adults learners can benefit from these three tips:

1). Get back in touch with the "Why?" for school. We all know "what" for what we are doing: we are going to school... we are teaching, we are supporting, we are completing assignments, grading assignments, etc. We do not need help necesarrily with the "what?"

Most of us have a good grasp on the "how?" for what we are doing. We know how to teach, support, grade, complete an assignment, etc. We need little help with "how" to do what we are doing this year.

Here is where we need more help: with being reminded for "why?" we are doing what we do. TED talker, Simon Sinek eloquently captures this formula in his "Golden Circle" concept.

I believe if we get back to "why" we do what we do, then our school year will be the most amazing school year ever. Why is it that you do what you do? Why is it important? Why should you get up in the morning?

2). Stay focused on your mission and vision. If you want to look back at your school year when you reach the end and think "wow! that was an incredible year of growth, learning, adventure, creativity, risk-taking, and maturity," then keep focused on the mission and vision. Often, you do not have to look any further than your organization's mission and vision statement. However, if you feel as if the organization you are with (a school) does not have a mission or a vision you are aligned with... you know, one that hits your sweet spot, than create one of your own. My wife and I have a vision for our family. And, out of that came my own personal mission statement. I imperfectly set out to accomplish my life's mission each and every day so that I can one day look back and say... "I achieved my vision for my life." Here is a picture of three words that summarize my own mission statement... I keep this posted on a mirror in my house. It helps me remember the "what, how, and why" I do what I do.

3). Stay positive! It is a fact that you will have struggles this upcoming year. You will reach points of stress, distress, frustration, disappointment, and sadness. You will not be able to avoid this. And, you would be wasting your time if you tried to prevent the low points. Keep at it... have courage, be bold, and stay positive. Do not lose sight of the "why," stay focused on your mission and vision for your life, and stay positive. It is the positive individuals who make a difference. It is the positive leaders who are the change agents for the better. You can do it! I cannot wait to look back at the 2013-14 school year and see all the growth, learning, achievements, accomplishments, joys, celebrations, and so much more. Let's have a GREAT year!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Red Light Infatuation and the Disdain for Green

I was recently watching Saturday morning cartoons with my 2 1/2 year old son, when the cartoon "Curious George" came on the television screen and attracted us into the episode like a magnet attracting metal. We were glued to the episode as the infamous monkey began to bounce around the TV screen and get into his typical mischief. This one particular episode attracted my son and I for (what I have to believe is) different reasons. For my son, the colors, the sounds, the musical tunes, and the funny monkey attracted him to the cartoon. For me, I was attracted by this particular episode's message. It was simply invigorating, thought-provoking, and insightful.

You see, this monkey named George, taught me a lesson on this one specific morning. It was a lesson I believe we all need to be reminded. It is the lesson of perspective. Life is all about perspective. 

In this episode, George, as always, was wanting to help others. He wanted to please those around him. He was walking around outside when he noticed a street lined with cars which were stopped at a red light. George was intrigued by all of the drivers who were seemingly enamored by the color red. The silly monkey was also fascinated by all of the commuters who did not appreciate the color green. As you have probably figured out... Curious George thought that because drivers of automobiles stopped at any street light that was red, it must mean this color was liked and enjoyed by all. Conversely, when drivers drove away once the street light turned from red to green, George thought that no one appreciated the leaf-like hue. George, in fact, corrected the street lights (in all directions) to be fixed on the color red. Well... you see, there was a problem with this solution: it caused traffic jams. Instead of drivers being pleased, as Curious George set out to have happen; drivers were furious, upset, and impatient. In turn, George was sad and confused.

This lesson of perspective was particularly enlightening to me for two reasons. The first reason is that life, as mentioned above, is all about perspective. George's perspective was that individuals loved the color red, when instead it was that drivers, all around, really did not like red at all... the driver's were merely trained and conditioned to stop in order to follow the rules of the road and observe safe driving. In fact, the opposite is true for Curious George's green observation: most drivers, if not all, love a green light. They do not have a disdain for it.

The second reason I was enlightened by this one episode of a children's cartoon is that perspective is often dictated by the information we have. The silly monkey did not have all of the information. He was simply going by the information he had: his observations. He was not taught the rules of the road. He was not educated in a driver's school. He was not even a driver himself. He had the best of intention based on the limited amount of information he had. This is not unlike leadership. As a leader I am compelled to remember that those I work with, more often than not, want to do the right thing. Most of us want to help. We want to please. We do this with the information we have.

The next time I am tempted to get upset with someone, I need to ask myself two questions: 1). was this person trying to help? 2). did this person have enough information in order to help?

As a leader, this thought is convicting. It directs all actions back to me. I am responsible for assuring everyone I work with has the needed information to help with the mission and vision of the organization. I need to make sure my wife and children are informed. I need to make sure my students and teachers, and parents have all the information needed to make a difference. If not, then we may not make any progress as we just sit, stopped at a red light staring into frustration at the thought that the red light is actually fascinating, when it simply is not. I want to make sure we are headed in the right direction. The implication of the previous statement is that if we are "headed" anywhere, we MUST go. In order to go, we MUST have the green light. The green light of progress is paved with information.

Are you clearly supplying the needed information to those you work and live with on a daily basis? If not, how can you begin to shape the perspective of others with information that is needed?