Edcamp, School Culture and Multipliers

It started two weeks ago at #edcampsfbay.  Adam Welcome (@awelcome) threw out a session on school culture.   Adam’s a pretty charismatic guy.  His energy and enthusiasm for his school and students is infectious.  And as the conversation continued, questions of legacy came up.  Is the true test of the culture what we leave behind?  What lasts beyond our tenure as leader?  Or is culture about the here and now?  Or both?

Then it came up in one of my a Voxer Book Groups.  It was nice to hear from secondary and elementary leaders from around the country.  Different perspectives and experiences are good fodder for reflection.

Flash forward to Liz Wiseman (@lizwiseman) at our county office talking Multiplier Effect for an afternoon speaker session.   The 6 Diminishers she outlined just made me shrink into my seat.  Guilty as charged.  But am I?

The 6 Diminishers

I’m a Fixer, which seems to embody all 6 of these potentially diminishing traits.  Diminishing in the sense that my actions don’t amplify or make the most of the amazing people around me.  When I jump in to Fix things, I might be stepping on someone else’s ability to fix it.  I might not be needed at all.  And that’s a good thing.

Liz doesn’t use the Fixer label.  It’s more of her Rapid Responder plus Rescuer plus Optimist.

Where does it dovetail with culture?  All over.  My actions (either Multiplying or Diminishing the power of those around me) help set the culture.  Do I jump in (butt in) and thereby communicate distrust or lack of ability to our staff?  Does my perpetual optimism undermine the real, hard work of teaching and learning?

Yes to all of that.  And yet, my Rapid Response style is often appreciated.  Teachers appreciate that I jump in so that they can remain focused on students.  My optimism helps us not wallow in the difficulties and start moving forward.  Liz finished her talk with, “Be less Diminisher.”  I can do that.

For me, it comes down to paying close attention, building relationships and working for the here and now.  If that is my focus, my legacy will take care of itself.  And it’s a crap shoot anyway.  Who knows who will be hired after me?  It’ll be the staff that dictates or shapes the new leader based on how highly they value what already exists.   For once that dreaded phrase This is how we’ve always done it at Grant School could be useful.

Paying Close Attention.

I’m with staff a lot.  In serious conversations and in small talk.  Lucky for me, our staff enjoys both working and playing together.  Yesterday, a message on the whiteboard in the staff room announced Happy Hour on Ms. B’s porch at 4pm.  Come one, come all.  TGIF!  And sure enough, ten staff members were laughing and reminiscing about the first two weeks of school.

I make time for staff.  This is especially critical of classified staff who don’t have time outside of the work day to meet with me.  A hallway convo on the way to library, a chat at break or while waiting outside the restrooms for a student.  It’s time well spent where I learn a lot about each of our staff family.

Building Relationships.

It’s a bit redundant to Paying Close Attention but is action oriented.  Connecting teachers who have like goals for their students.  Facilitating professional reading by buying the books we’re interested in.  Taking over pick up/cross walk duty because it makes a teacher happy.

We share acknowledgments at staff meetings (always item #1) that are also highlighted in the bulletin.  But since we have staff meetings only once a month, I added a basket in the staff room for in-between acknowledgements that I can list in the weekly bulletin.  So far, I’ve added 3 otherwise-unmentioned thank yous via my basket.  Awesome.

Appreciating one another is relational.  Venting is too.  Venting with some productivity to follow.  What do we do with the complaint?  That’s the important piece.

Focus on the Here and Now.

What is lacking about our culture?  What can we do about it?  Are there systems in place that we’ve let lag?  Do new systems need to be implemented?  How do I, the leader, amplify the work of others?  How do I exemplify the culture and attitudes of our school?

So that’s my Saturday reflections on school culture.  It’s a topic we could talk about until we’re blue in the face, read a hundred books and never get anywhere.  The conversations are valuable, don’t get me wrong, but my actions, our actions as a staff, are much more important.  Culture is never on autopilot.  My job is to cultivate, shepherd and amplify.

Onward and upward!


Attitude is Everything. Part 2 (post #gafesummit)

Monday was a day to recuperate.  Tired mind, tired feet, tired body.   Did I mention tired mind?

But today is Tuesday.  A day to reflect, celebrate & build my to-do list!

First off, it’s so amazing to meet new people who are learners just like me!  Asking questions, sharing ideas, getting excited about our work and the possibilities… it’s so perfect! I presented more than I ever had before and when you share what you know, it just solidifies the whole situation.  Some things I didn’t know as well as I thought or I just couldn’t quite articulate well enough my thinking.  Some aspects I could tell made an impact on the attendees: nods, smiles, notes taken, questions later.  That feels good.  And then the inevitable review of the slides… one had too many pics to see well, one of my circles on a screenshot was not in the right position,… the details can really be a drag, but you know when it’s done well and when it’s not.

Swag for my boys!

Swag for my boys!

The EdTechTeam outdid themselves at this 3rd Annual CA #gafesummit!  Gunn High School was a great location.  I loved the sea of tables for breakfast and lunch, networking and working, resting your mind or meeting new folks.  It was a welcoming central location on a large campus.  As usual, they fed us well; can’t go wrong with Panera!  And the always popular photo booth!

Photo booth time! Me, Amy, Kim, Todd & Sergio

Photo booth time!
Me, Amy, Kim, Todd & Sergio

So what did I learn?

Solidify what I already do before adding more.  @mrsfadeji shared a great idea from a session with @ramusallam that lets you email many types of media to a Blogger account that automatically puts the media in your blog.  That is so cool!  I’m taking a video of students… goes to blog.  I take a photo of a teacher… goes to blog.  I write a short reflection… goes to blog. But it begs the question: Why?  To what end? I’m not throwing out this slick workflow; I like it.  But I don’t want to apply a solution to a problem that hasn’t arisen yet. My classroom walkthrough form uses formemailer to send a portion of the notes to the teacher.  I love this.  But now that Google has switched to add-ons, that’s what I need to focus on–the shift from old-style scripts to add-ons (to-do list item #1).

Attitude is Everything.  I realize from my own reflections and feedback from folks around me that my attitude impacts the message I’m trying to convey.  Obvious?  Yes.  But did I know that about myself?  Not so much.  I see this in others, but hadn’t fully identified myself as an effective messenger in this arena.

In my Get Out of Your Office session, my enthusiasm for leadership (as opposed to management) really hit home for the attendees.  Everything I shared is 100% do-able, not uber techy and makes a leader’s life easier.  In my Intro to Sites session, I spent the first 30 minutes calming everyone down, showing the icons to reinforce that it all is familiar territory, showing flashy and plain examples to lower the stress and expectations, walking through many screenshots to ensure attendees that these resources will be helpful down the line and everything does not need to be memorized.  It was time well spent.  And in the latter 30 minutes, we could click around together, model editing, answer questions, demo and talk aesthetics, planning and choices when building a site. My attitude was pivotal to those attendees.  And my own reflections.

The #edupressure skyrockets when there are folks in the crowd who I admire and respect.  Another no-brainer.  But boy did I get extra sweaty!!  What could you possibly learn from me A lot, it turns out.  How reassuring that fellow educators that I look to for guidance can turn it around and look to me.  You just never know it all.  Love that.

People are awesome!  Another no-brainer, but I just have to celebrate this part of a #gafesummit.  I brought along three teachers from our school, and our district totaled almost 50 attendees!!  This included some of my favorite admin colleagues to hang out with which made for an extra fun weekend!

Our Grant School Team

Our Grant School Team Me, Leslie, Keith & Jean

A Keynote Pic

A Keynote Pic

I met up with some fellow #gtamtv gals too!  There were six of us at the conferences so we had a brief meet-up at lunch on Sunday.  Google Teacher Academy is in 8 days!?!?  And one of our cohort, Tara, won Google Glass at Saturday’s raffle.  Unbelievable.

#gtamtv meet-up Me, Lisa, Michelle, Amy, Tara & Michelle

#gtamtv meet-up
Me, Lisa, Michelle, Amy, Tara, Michelle

Of course, #gafesummit isn’t complete without awesome dinners out with your colleagues, friends and tweeps!  I think there’s a special aura around conference attendees (or at least around me) that leads us to the most awesome, delicious, amazing meals EVER for post-conference day dining.

Yummy Italian Sheila, Maureen, Me, Emily & Lori

Yummy Italian
Sheila, Maureen, Me, Emily & Lori

Needless to day, my to-do list has grown, but my enthusiasm for the work has kept pace!  I’ve got clear goals, folks to look to for help, a motivated mind and body, and a school year right around the corner in which to put it all to work!