Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Principal's Reflection: my first week on the job

Just 10 days ago, I began a new journey. August 1st, 2014 marked the first official day as the new Principal of the Eakin School, an elementary school serving students in grades K-4 in the Metro-Nashville Public Schools district. The first 10 days has been full of the highest highs... kind, warm, and welcoming teachers and parents going out of their way to make me feel well received. It has also been full of little sleep at night paired with many hours spent with my new school community as the unique timing required me to "hit the ground running" as we have also started school this past week.

Here are three "take-aways" from my first 10 days. The three tips are pointers to anyone out there who have found themselves also in a new setting. I encourage you to put others first. Hopefully, these three notions speak to you.

1.  Get Out of the Way: I believe good leaders of organizations know how to remove themselves and allow others shine. I believe effective leaders know when something is working okay, then there is no need to mess with it. I have allowed myself to sit back and observe a wonderful community of parents and teachers keep the momentum going that was already in place well before I arrived: Everything from procedures, to norms, to processes, to systems. As the old adage goes... "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." You see, whenever there is a change in leadership of a quality organization, that leader inherits quality individuals. There is no doubt quality individuals who make up the fantastic Eakin community. I have had to allow those quality individuals to reveal themselves and shine. It has been a privilege.

2. Listen and Care: The first initiative I want to accomplish is to build trust. Anytime, we deal with organizations like schools which are built on the premise of relationships; it is vital to build trust. I have already met with multiple stakeholders of teachers, parents, students, faith-based representatives, political figures, and more. No matter how many tasks on my "to-do" list: emails to read and respond to, items to organize, boxes to unpack, and more; it is ALWAYS more important to put those tasks aside and listen to the important individuals who make up the organization.

2. Be Patient: I am a leader. I have been a leader as far back as I can remember. I have goals. I have a vision. Again, I have been this way for a long time. I guess I can blame my parents because it is simply the way I am wired... being a visionary is in my DNA. However, I am also continuously learning that when leading others, it is vitally important to allow any vision that is worth it to marinate. It is important to be strategic. It is important to take the approach of "turning the ship slowly." Especially, when leading schools which have hundreds if not thousands of human beings; it is important to turn the ship slowly. Schools are like HUGE ships. They are not like little jet skis which can be turned on a dime and cut back and forth very quickly. There is no doubt I have a vision. BUT, what is more important is conveying the vision the correct way: with patience, humility, grace, and great thought while also allowing others to have a seat at the table.

What about you? What do you think? What advice would you give to someone starting a new chapter in leadership?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The End of One Chapter and the Start of Another...

It is with an equal amount of conflict and excitement that I close one chapter of my life and begin a new one.

In June of 2006, I joined the Williamson County School District and immediately felt encouraged, empowered, and charged to create, innovate, and change learning environments for the better. I have absolutely considered it a privilege to lead, coach, teach, speak, communicate, share, collaborate, help, sweat, volunteer, laugh, cry, and learn with so many extraordinary colleagues, coaches, leaders, staff, parents, and most importantly... students. In many ways it feels like yesterday that a community in Northeast Williamson County partnered together by rolling up their sleeves to open up a brand new school, Sunset Middle School, a school that will forever have a special place in my heart. 

Then, in 2010, I was asked to assist in opening up another school in the Southern end of WCS. That year is one that I will never forget. I am forever indebted to School Principal, Paula Pulliam, for hiring me to lead with her. Her tireless efforts to serve her community is second to none. She is one of the most passionate, caring, selfless, servant-minded, driven, focused, generous, kind, BIG-hearted, human beings I have ever known. My blog post is not long enough to contain all of the positive qualities she exhibits. In short, she is amazing! I have learned so much from her leadership. I am forever grateful and in many ways consider this upcoming chapter in my life possible because of all she has invested in me. 

I want to now thank Spring Station Middle School. If you are in any way associated with #MustangNation, then I want to thank you. I appreciate your patience, partnership, collaboration, risk-taking, persistence, endurance, teamwork, passion, creativity, innovation, vision, accountability, help, assistance, etc. Simply put, you are an incredible bunch of colleagues, educators, students, parents, businesses, and overall community. We have done great things for student learning, school culture, community involvement, and positive life change and I am just so humbled to have had a front row seat. Thanks for allowing me to journey with you.  

I am now transitioning to a new chapter in my life. I greatly anticipate partnering with the Eakin Elementary School community to impact the surrounding community in positive ways. I am thankful to reunite with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. As an alum, I am proud to come back and serve my community. I will assume the role of Principal at Eakin Elementary on Friday, August 1st, and I consider it an honor and a privilege to do so. Just after I was notified that I was selected to lead the fabulous Eakin community, my mother confirmed with me that my late-father attended Eakin when he was a young boy. He was a boy who grew up in poverty near Edgehill and I am sure he would be proud to know I am now serving where he once roamed. I am so humbled to come full-circle and lead students who will one day have their own shot at coming back to contribute to the Eakin community. Go Eagles!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I am thankful for pain... here is why you should be too!

The video above is about a young lady that reminds us that "pain is one of life's greatest gifts." This case scenario challenges our preconceived notions of pain. In a world of prescription pain killers, serious stress reducers, numbing substances of all kinds, and an overall sense to rid ourselves of anything that would cause us harm; it is almost counter-intuitive to embrace the idea of pain and it's benefits.

No matter what you are going through... whether your circumstances are uncomfortable, cumbersome, hurtful, or even excruciatingly painful; there is something in that pain and discomfort for which you should be thankful.

Whether it is emotional hurt, physical pain, mental fatigue, relational and social stress, psychological discomfort; there is reason to be joyful. You see, it is all a matter of perspective. As in the video, pain is a key to living. Pain lets us know we are alive. Pain allows us to protect ourselves. It shows us when enough is enough and when to rest. It is simply human. We are living fully in our humanness when we experience hurt and pain.

Now, I am not a masochist, but I do know what it feels like to be hurt. I understand the problems of pain. I have undergone stressful situations. I have endured uncomfortable periods of my life. If I am honest, I did not like nor enjoy any of those periods. However, I can look back and see the purpose for those times and how the pain and even suffering at points allowed me to grow, learn, benefit, and ultimately LIVE!

Here is the challenge to us all: next time you are going through a tough time, a low point, a challenging circumstance, a stressful situation, or a painful period of life; think of the ways you can be thankful. How can you endure that time of your life with gratitude?

What do you say? Do you agree? Are you thankful for pain?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Threshold: Review of 2013 and Preview of 2014

Review of 2013 Goals/Achievements:

1. 2013 Goal ACHIEVED- Begin to write a book- As we turn the page on another year, I have written seven chapters. My 2014 goal is to complete the current book and start two more books.

2. 2013 Goal ACHIEVED- Double my followers on twitter @drizzinkwine (expand my influence through social media)... at the time of this post, I was at 375 followers. I am now at 787 followers as we start 2014.

3. 2013 Goal ACHIEVED- Increase my readership on this blog: "Drinkwine at School" (at the time of this post, my most read post was was read 400X). I increased my readership especially with a blog post I wrote in September of 2013 as it pertains to twitter use in schools and a "how-to" plan for soliciting the participation of school communities in the twittersphere.

4. 2013 Goal ACHIEVED- Speak at one major conference/summit/retreat this year on the topic(s) of education, leadership, technology. I was invited to speak and lead three different organizations as each was creating or revising their mission and vision statements. I had the privilege of leading those organizations through the process. I also was able to lead a 20 minute session for a Technology Un-conference back in July.

*More 2014 Goals in addition to continuing the ones above:

1. Publish an eBook
2. Begin teaching as a professor in a Higher Ed setting