An attempt at reflection (part 1)

May 11th already.

I’ve heard “the 90 days of May” and other teacher-isms about the final weeks of school.  I feel like May is flying by, my sense of time is warped and I feel like I look at my calendar every 10 minutes for a reality check.  Probably not just a feeling.

To center myself, gather up a few minutes to keep the time from swirling wildly around me, I’ll take a stab at a reflection on the year.  It’s overdue.  It’s been a year of huge growth for me.  Exciting and scary.

FullSizeRender (5)I’m a Viking!  In August I wouldn’t have said that with any conviction.  I was a lost puppy trying to lead a school, learn kids’ names, start the year strong.  School is school, you’d think.  But you’d really only think that if you didn’t work in education.  School’s have their own flavor, pulse, attitude.  Not to mention where we keep supplies, how the alarm works, and when recess happens.  So many layers.  And the people.  The most important part.  Staff, teachers, parents, kids.  So many new layers of people.  And they watched me.  Closely.  Who is this new person?  What’s her plan?  Does she like me?

Consistent communication

I stuck to my tried and true systems of communication.  Weekly bulletin, Wednesday agenda (whether there’s a meeting or not) and as few emails to staff as possible.  Face to face is the first option.  To build confidence after a major change, people need to know where to find information, consistently.  Both of the above mention docs are one humongous google doc.  So it’s one stop shopping for all information.

My way of communicating… no gotchas, no secrets, finding a balance between too much and not enough information.  Tone, set up of the space, wait time, encouragement, listening and sharing… such an art.  I strive to be the leader I needed as a teacher.

Available, visible, approachable

“Open door policy” doesn’t have anything to do with the position of your office door.  I read that on Twitter recently (sorry, no attribution).  It’s an attitude.  “Do you have a minute?” or “Sorry to bother you” are phrases that I dislike.  I always have a minute and people are never bothering me.  It’s my job.  People are the most important thing on a school campus.  It’s what I do.  Parent concerns, student learning, teacher needs, support staff questions… I always have a minute and no, you’re never a bother.  What can I do for you?

Painted in Waterlogue

Being around campus, in classrooms, at recess, at drop off & breakfast… it’s important to be seen and available.  And by being out and about so much, my new Viking family can get to know me, how I operate, what I value.  And I hope through these interactions, they know I care about my new school, I’m invested and ready to work along side them.

Not without Challenges

The adjustment has been tough.  I already see this year as such an opportunity that I wasn’t even aware of as I moved through it.  Luckily there are people above me who knew this was the nudge I needed.  A nudge out of the nest that was my former school.

Emotionally taxing, physically demanding and intellectually challenging.  How could you not grow from all that?  My work/life balance is better (weekend beach walks, blog posts that sit in drafts, time with my family).  Humor often saves the day.  If you can’t laugh at the crazy pace of an elementary school, you need to find a new line of work.  Exercise still eludes me.  It’s now a summer goal with the idea that whatever I start could be maintained during school.  And I rest my mind more.  I joke that my work is also my hobby.  True statement.  But it’s intellectually taxing to read about leadership and live leadership, to read blogs about education and live education.  So now I’ve developed other reading lists, started playing Clash of Clans (nothing like a video game to tune things out) and set a time when work email is off limits.  Give my busy mind a break.

Challenges as opportunities for growth.  I’m in.  And once summer rolls around, I’ll be ready to tackle What I would have done differently.  And Plans for next year.  For now, time to step away.  Hit publish and the hang with the fam.



Teaching, Learning & Blue Apron

It’s a personal post.  Stop reading if you’re expecting edu-leadership reflection and insight.  This is all about cooking with my boys.

No matter how you feel about companies like Blue Apron, I took advantage of a free meal via email from a friend.  What’s to lose?  Nothing but gain for me.  Here’s why.

A box of ingredients for two meals arrives on my porch on Tuesday.  Jacob has baseball practice on Tuesdays; Joshua is between sports right now.  Josh picks which meal he’ll cook on Tuesday.  Jacob gets the other meal for Wednesday.  Joshua likes to follow the recipe exactly and make adjustments the second time around.  Jacob likes to improvise the first time around if he feels like the recipe needs it.

Learning to cook.  Hopefully you had a parent who taught you the basics, the family traditions and even some improvisation in the kitchen.  I’ve done this too.  Joshua even invented a dish we call Tater Tot Casserole.  It’s pretty good.  But now we’re learning to cook a bit differently.

Welcome to Casa Haugen, Blue Apron.  Each recipe comes with a card.  Ingredients and background on one side and six pictures with six directions on the other side.  I don’t direct the cooking experience so much as I serve as the assistant.  I relinquish the “teacher” role to the card.  And we both learn something when we cook: a new ingredient, technique, combination of flavors…

A few observations:

My boys give me good direction.  “Mom, can you mince the garlic while I clean the other vegetables?”  “The pan is heavy.  Can you hold it while I scrape it?”

Direction and coarse correction from me is easier when they’re in the driver’s seat.

Sometimes my help isn’t needed.  “Mom, I got it from here.”

The card is the boss.  Jacob: “What’s next?” Me: “I don’t know.  What’s the card say?”

They’re proud of cooking for the family.  “I think dad’s really going to like this.”  “I hope the hash is seasoned well.”

What’s the learning for me?  Give them room.  Take direction.  Be a partner, not a boss.  Enjoy cooking together.  Let them shine.

My poor kids rarely get a break from their teacher/principal mom.  Or maybe all moms are like me.  Protective, teaching all the time, hovering more than they’d like to, wanting to give independence but struggling… who knows?

This is a new biweekly experience for our family that I look forward to like no other.  Love cooking with my boys!  And learning with them too!