Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Well, after a little over two months filled with loss and grief (my best friend's mother, Kathy, lost her battle with cancer on Oct. 17; and my maternal grandmother,Noni, passed away from supposed colon cancer and a perforated colon on November 17), I woke up this morning, dusted myself off and said "ENOUGH!". I have allowed these events (and a smattering of others in between) cause me to become complacent, tired, and unmotivated. I look yucky and I FEEL even worse! This is NOT the optimistic, energetic, motivational self that I work so hard to cultivate . . . . .the time has come for a jump-start (a.k.a. the self-inflicted kick-in-the-butt). :-)
A very dear friend and mentor of mine recommended a book to me called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. As with any book he recommends, I quickly snatched it up to devour it . . . .I have this insatiable hunger for new knowledge, (especially if it can help me to be even a fraction as smart and successful as my friend is.) However, as my life hit one of those "snags" with all of this sickness, sadness and death, it's been sitting on the overflowing bookshelf next to my bed, with only the first chapter read. So this morning, I dragged my sagging derriere and my shamefully dusty book to the recumbent bike in the office and REREAD chapter one.
Dweck, who has spent her entire career researching achievement and success, has written this entire book on the power of our mindset in determining our own achievement and successes. Just her first chapter confirms everything I have come to believe in the last four years of my life (and has been laying dormant for 2 months) and taught me more about how powerful our minds truly are. She talks about the two types of mindsets: the fixed mindset (the belief that your basic qualities are set in stone) and the growth mindset (the belief that your basic qualities are things that can be cultivated through effort).
" . . . .belief that cherished qualities can be developed creates passion for learning. Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it's not going so well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives. "
-Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck, 2008
I will not rewrite her whole book for you, I haven't even finished it myself; however, the purpose of this blog is to connect with others, learn from others, and share with others. I think we all owe it to ourselves to cultivate our remarkable potential for success and happiness. Her writing is casual and easy to understand (I always tease my psychologist friends about how their language makes me feel like I'm on Mars). I hope you'll pick up a copy of this book, and after you've read it, tell me what you think.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I'm in St. Paul, Minnesota . . . .for the first time ever. Home of the Vikings and the Twins, my husband's FAVORITE teams. However, I think I missed the excitement, wherever that may be here in Minnesota. I am sitting here in a hotel room, after a full day of training, looking out at what appears to be a lovely, abandoned office building . . . .and right next to that, another . . . abandoned . . . .office . . . .building. I am also lulled into a twitchy coma by the constant humming of a sander and the rat-a-tat-tat of a hammer or two or three in the hallway outside my room. Ahhhh . . .work travel . . . .:-)
The silver lining is that I am being trained to go back and teach our schools how to implement an awesome data collection system that will help them track student behaviors and identify specific problems so that they can begin to DO SOMETHING PROACTIVE about it! I love that our district is finally moving towards a much more proactive approach to academics and behavior, and hopefully moving away from simply being reactive. It's funny, whenever I'm at a training or event like this, I am driven to WRITE WRITE WRITE. I've been to Omaha, Florida, and now Minnesota within the last year . . . and for those opportunities, I am grateful.
I'm also traveling with a colleague that has very kindred beliefs when it comes to Positive Behavior Support, so dialogue is always meaningful, and when we're not talking (during training) he's marking on me with pens, kicking my chair, and turning off my computer monitor . . . . . . . . yep, I'm all about making those real connections . . . . . and actually considering some Positive Behavior Support techniques for the mischevious Frank.
Tonight, we celebrate our mutual birthdays at some random restaurant, talk about missing our spouses and kids, and hope for a night of rest before the next cram session begins.
I'm not sure how it would feel to never have a learning curve ahead of me, and I don't ever plan to find out!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I've been silently reflecting all day. I had the chance to hear our new WCSD Superintendent speak to the public last night. My personal and professional investment in this district have increased tenfold in the last few years, so last night was very important for me. I have seen so many wonderful things happen in the district and I have also become painfully aware of some changes that need to be made . . .and fast.
My first impression was youth and confidence, Dr. Morrison had a great energy! He seemed comfortable with the very diverse audience that was full of administrators, parents, retired teachers, students, and people from our business community. He answered questions with ease and had a great plan to present. He was also a humble man, which I appreciate in a leader. The piece that really stood out for me though, was the "village" approach he is taking as he enters the role of leader. I feel passionately about ALL stakeholders (teachers, administrators, families, communities) being fully committed to our children's education. I have seen, more than once in the last 12 years, so many educators that simply treat education as their "JOB". It's so much more than that, we have the amazing gift and responsibility to INSPIRE, LOVE, CHALLENGE and CELEBRATE children! As Dr. Krystal Kuykendall has stated, we are "Merchants of Hope". I feel that our new superintendent has the same vision and philosophy, and I am excited to see where he can take us.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A few months ago, I received a phone call while in my office at school. A gentleman introduced himself as Soichi (So-eech) Hayashi, and proceeded, in very energetic and deliberate English, to tell me that he was a Japanese journalist, living in Reno. A principal at one of Washoe County's elementary schools had recommended that he make an appointment to interview me. He said that he was interested in seeing my Elementary Opportunity School because he was interested in writing about individuals who were trying to solve the problems in our educational system.
I must admit, I am extremely hard of hearing, especially if it is a calm, quiet voice (yell and stomp, in a deep voice, I'll hear you loud and clear!), so I was trying very hard to HEAR what Soichi was telling me. After embarrassingly asking him to repeat himself several times, I began to understand what he was asking of me: He sees that the Japanese educational system is beginning to make many of the same mistakes that were made here; he is proactively investigating how we are fixing our mistakes in order to improve the quality of education HERE, in order to help his own country before things get too bad and he wanted to meet with me. OKAY! So, we set a time to meet. He came to my school, asked me lots of questions about the kids, my assistant, my counselor, my boss, and most importantly, my philosophy on how to reach these kids. All the while, he wrote furiously in his little notebook. We had some wonderful discussions on the importance of connecting with students and families, concentrating on the whole child, not just test scores.
The best thing about this first meeting was that I did a little interviewing myself. I wanted to know all about this new person. He's published several books and articles in Japan, that range from Japanese sports to looking at homeless problems here in the U.S. to covering Americans that have been given second chances to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others, one being George Foreman. He attended our very own University of Nevada, Reno and majored in journalism prior to all of this writing in Japan. He is married and lives here in Reno with his wife, daughter and son. He was a professional boxer in Japan, and has worked with some of our communities most at-risk youth.
During our second meeting, Soichi told me that he would like to follow my career. He said he felt that I have the right passion and belief to make positive changes happen in our school systems and he wants to write about me to inspire educators in Japan. He completely humbled me. We have met several times since then. Last week, he had just gotten back from spending six weeks in Japan; during his time there, he met with his editors and they have begun a new contract with him, giving him the go-ahead to follow ME! Ha! Who'd have ever thought? I am interested to see how this new and interesting connection continues to unfold . . . . .and I have also told Soichi that whatever he writes about me, I want translated, I'd hate to find out that he's writing me in as a goofy American teacher in a Japanese newspaper comic strip. lol :0) I'll keep you all posted.
Be well, Friends,
Saturday, July 25, 2009
So, while I'm BIG on connecting with others, I woke up yesterday morning feeling terrible that I have not connected with one of my dearest friends in MONTHS. Yes, we'll chat on Facebook once in a while, and it allows us to check each other's pulses here and there, BUT, she lives 15 minutes away, and even though I've been extremely busy with "work stuff" . . .I'm technically "off" for the summer, there is no excuse! I was determined to make her a priority yesterday and I am SO glad that I did. We had a wonderful lunch, and spent some time walking by the river with her beautiful baby boy. We even talked a little about this blog, and how it made her really reflect on her own human connections. It was time well spent, AND, I still got my "work stuff" done, too.
I share this with you because I want to remind you not to forget to nurture those special friendships. We all get busy, and caught up in the daily grind . . . . . . I challenge each of you to take some time this week to nurture a connection that you may have neglected lately . . . .may it brighten your day and someone else's, too!
Friday, July 24, 2009
“In Everyone’s life at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
Making connections with others has always been important to me , but with each year of my life, I realize, more and more, how truly important these connections are. I consider myself blessed to be able to work in the field of education. Every day, I am able to touch the lives of children and their families in a positive way; I am fortunate enough to see how my belief in them leads to them believing in themselves, so that they can live a fulfilling life and enjoy their own connections with others. I started my career as a teacher and have since been moving "onward and upward" into the realm of administration. What a journey so far! It is so important to me to be able to feel like I'm making a difference, no matter what position I happen to hold at the time. I want to help people succeed!
I look to the many successful leaders in education, many whom have been MY mentors, for guidance on a regular basis, and one thing is always consistent: they NEVER fail to connect with others. This is at the forefront of everything they do.
I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, an administrator, an employee, a boss, a shopper at the grocery store, another face at the gym in the morning, a patient in the waiting room, a neighbor. When I look at this life of mine and at the sphere of influence I have created around myself, I feel a massive sense of responsibility to make sure that I do not take all of these human connections for granted.
Take a look around you! How many people do YOU have some sort of connection with? Are you making those connections positive? Inspirational? What impression do we leave with people we've just met? What are we doing to help others live their best life?
This blog is just one way of holding myself accountable, as I journey forward, for "keeping it real". I will not lose sight of the incredible influence that I have on the lives around me. Let this be my chance to connect with YOU, share your thoughts as I share mine; lets make a point of living each day making REAL connections with others, and hopefully, leaving them with a smile and a memory that will enrich their lives . . . . .