Tag Archives: struggle

Celebrate Success (Even When It’s Someone Else’s)

It’s pretty easy to celebrate your own accomplishments.  I mean, you know your journey.  You know what you have been through to carry out the goal.  However, it can be harder to celebrate the success of others.  It got me thinking.

  • Do we not celebrate the success of others because of the competitive world we live in?  Maybe we don’t celebrate because we are fearful that someone else’s success diminishes our own.  Maybe it makes us feel a little safer with our own status.
  • Do we not notice? Let’s face it, it’s a fast pace world we live in. Maybe we get so busy, we just don’t see anything going on with anyone else because we have hyper-focused on our own circumstances.
  • Do we doubt the impact our “congratulations” mean to someone else?  Maybe we think that the other person will question our sincerity or even value our acknowledgement of what they have accomplished.

Recently I had a colleague of a campus that had been through a tremendous challenge to help her campus meet some specified accountability standards.  While I had not directly experienced the steps and measures they had gone through to achieve the goal.  I knew it was certainly arduous.  Her team rallied. They invested.  They learned. They reflected and they grew.  Most importantly, they never gave up.  It was huge accomplishment when they achieved this task they had worked on for years.

As I watched them celebrate, it hit me how important it was that not only they celebrate for themselves, or be acknowledged by superiors, but that they be acknowledged by peers and colleagues.  I didn’t know whether my words would really matter to them, but it just seemed important.  When we live in a world where education is constantly under fire, we must stand together in good times and in bad. It just seems like it’s easier to acknowledge and feel pity for someone’s struggles. We must not compete against each other, but celebrate each educational organization as a part of the great big “whole” of public educators who make a difference for children.  That is why my teacher leaders did a twitter storm of celebration for this campus marrying their hashtag and ours to celebrate their success.

I don’t think it matters if you are a district, a school, or a teacher of a classroom.  As Susan Phillips says “Celebrate the success of others.  High tide floats all ships.” When you are in a battle, you unite your armies, not battle over who is the frontline or the support. Both are critical to winning longterm.  We must recognize that every success of any campus is asuccess for all public educators.  It’s a check in the win column to tell the world what a difference a group of educators can make in the lives of children when they have a common vision and purpose. Congratulations, Central Elementary! You have accomplished great things.  You have shown grit, growth mindset, and grace under fire!  You did it and you make us all look good because of that!

 

 

A Time to Rest

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.42.45 AM

This year I will enter my 26th year as an educator.  It is hard to believe.  I remember as a new educator looking at teachers with 20+ years of experience and being in awe of their talent and stamina.

I love teaching.  I love school.  While I love summer, I can never seem to wait to get back and always have found myself creeping back into the building long before my contract began.  Whether it was to teach summer school, set up my classroom, or plan for the upcoming year, I couldn’t seem to stay away. Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.35.31 AM

This past summer was a little different.  My feelings and passion hadn’t changed, but I was just so tired.  Every time I thought about going to school or planning, I just felt a deep exhaustion that seemed to be back behind my eye sockets.  I couldn’t focus and get started.  It led to some deep guilt.  Who was I letting down?

Ultimately, I had to come to the realization that twenty-five years of non-stop “going” had finally caught up with me.  I had to give myself permission that taking care of myself WAS taking care of my people.  My body and my mind needed rest for me to continue to be able to give my best to my students, staff, and community. I’m now almost two weeks back in, and I am realizing the world did not come crashing down.  We are off to a great start and everything will get done.

Of course, it helps that this is my fifth year in the principalship and fifth year at this campus.  I was fortunate that no emergencies that needed to be taken care of while I was do a good joboff-contract. I feel certain that if something urgent had come up, my adrenaline would have kicked back in. What I also realized once my exhaustion started to wane was that maybe, if I did a little more self-care during the year, I might not reach that level physical and mental fatigue.

I think sometimes as educators, our passion creates an adrenaline that allows us to keep going at superhuman rates.  Our sense of urgency drives us through the “tired” when most would say “enough”.   However, I think we have to find that place where we recognize that rest is critical.   Pushing ourselves to this point is not healthy and can certainly lead to bigger issues. Filling our own cups and allowing time for rejuvenation is necessary if we intend to fully pour ourselves into others. Sometimes grit and growth mindset is about finding balance and giving ourselves the grace we so easily give to others. There is a time for work.  There is a time for a sense of urgency.  But, there is also a time to rest.

I wish all the educators out there the best school year possible as we ready for the return of our students. Just remember: There is a time for work.  There is a time for a sense of urgency.  But, there is also a time to rest.

Symptoms and Bigger Issues Related to Physical and Metal Exhaustion

Unchartered Waters

I have certainly been blessed in my career.  I have had some amazing professional opportunities that have prepared me for the campus leadership position I hold now.  Even though I changed positions on a regular basis, I gained some extensive knowledge in from a variety of aspects in education.  I am tremendously grateful for the districts I have served and their immersion into the Visioning Document to guide my leadership principles.  I am most blessed to serve an amazing campus with precious children, supportive families, a great community, and an incredible staff of committed educators who are willing to be risk-takers and do whatever it takes to do what is right for our students.

In year four of my principalship, I am fortunate to see much of the initial five-year vision I set upon my arrival coming to fruition.  Our students are becoming strong readers, writers, thinkers, and problem-solvers.  We have re-established relationships with our parents and are beginning to have some connections with our community at large. We have received recognition for strong practices of  transformation. We have gone from a campus with declining results, to a campus on the verge of an explosion of greatness.

I should feel great, right?  However, in the past few months, my major emotion has been that of anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong. I have great pride in my students and staff.  It is because of my deep commitment to them that I have anxiety of how to proceed as we accomplish the last of these goals.  My passion for being the very best for them has created my stress.  I started my leadership journey with a clear vision.  The path has been very clear and the results have come.  My worry rises from as we see our initial destination in view I am plagued with the questions:  “What next? Where do we go from here?”

That’s what happens when you create a learning organization.  You create people with a growth mindset who are intent on getting better every day.  My work as a part of the Principal’s Visioning Institute has resulted  in my own deep self-reflection.  I absolutely believe in the Visioning Document. It has framed our initial transformation.  But I have reached the point where I am standing on the horizon looking at an unclear path.  My past “self” would have said I’ve done what I’m good at, time to move on.  But that is not what I want for my future “self”.  I have more goals, higher vision, than just what has been accomplished so far.  I’ve just not been at this stage of transformation and simply “rinsing and repeating” will not help us to continue to up our game.

Part of my anxiety that because I have such great people, I am fearful of not having a clear plan.  These wonderful educators have worked so tirelessly to achieve our goals thus far, I want to continue to ensure their success.  However, since I am headed into unchartered territory, it is hard to know what to expect.  I just don’t want to lead them down the wrong path. I want to make sure we are prepared with the right tools and that my navigation equipment is state of the art.

These past two days at the Principal’s Visioning Institute have been much needed to face my leadership fears.  I’ve been more quiet than usual, but soaking up every word and putting into my current context to prepare for the next stage of our journey.  It has helped me to see that while I may not be familiar with the next stage of my journey, others around me are and they are ready to help.  I have a great map with the Visioning Document and its related tools.  I have a fleet of other leaders navigating the same course of redesigning education to meet the needs of 21st-Century Learners. Most importantly, I have a fantastic, fearless crew of educators at my side. Any perils of the unknown we face, we will face together.

Ultimately, these past two days, I have realized that it’s okay for leaders to be unsure, but you can’t dwell there.  You have to find your tools, your supports, and make a plan, even if

it’s unfamiliar. You can still see the horizon.  It’s just time to start planning for the next stop in my campus’ journey. It’s time to harness my grit, my growth mindset, and God’s grace

and move forward because a current destination that is currently great won’t remain great as time moves on.  It’s all about the journey, not the destination. It’s time to set sail. Our next port is waiting.

Not Just a Building

This past week, I attended the Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference and had the opportunity to hear Shanna Peeples, 2015 National Teacher of the Year, speak. She had so much to say about advocating for public schools, but the thing that has resonated with me most was this quote:

“Public school is not a building. It’s a promise that a community makes to itself.” Shanna Peeples, TASA Midwinter Conference 2017

I’ve thought a lot about what she said, but I would take this statement a little further. A public school is not just a building; it is a promise that the community makes to itself to inspire hope for a better future.

We live in a tough world. We have people feeling entitled to rewards without work. People who cannot communicate effectively with words, so they use violence. People who are angry because they feel invisible, and other people who are afraid of the people they don’t understand so they put up the barriers that make angry people feel even more

disenfranchised. Instead of fixing the systems we have and contributing to a better world, people want to take their toys and go home resulting in soft segregation. This is only going to create a continuous cycle of decline.

But here is what I have to say-public schools are the hope for a better future. Public schools are the embodiment of our forefather’s vision, and capture in the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on The Statue of Liberty.

In my school that promise is:

  • to a young girl that there will be someone there to care for her, despite her mother suffering from stage 4 cancer and having no extended family.
  • taking a moment to talk about what went wrong when a boy lost his cool and threatened a peer and to develop a different plan while helping him let go of his angry past.
  • a letter waiting for you at your new school when your family moved away and a teacher worried about your transition because you have moved so often.
  • a teacher braiding your hair because you are staying in a homeless shelter and mom couldn’t fix your hair before you came to school.
  • knowing that we will exhaust every option before we label you in a way that may limit your future opportunities.
  • the nurse recognizing a rash as a bigger problem to alert you to the need to seek immediate, life-saving medical attention.
  • a concerned teacher taking money from her own pocket to ensure the electricity is on so a child with asthma can have nebulizer treatments.
  • teaching peers to show compassion to a student with low cognitive ability and them applying that compassion by looking after her when she is outside the classroom.
  • designing work with incubating germs that help you learn “school stuff” but make you feel like a grown up in the real world.
  • setting goals and celebrating achievement and talking about how to regroup when the goal falls short so that all children, no matter of their ability, are coached and guided for growth.
  • talks of college embodied in grade level cheers and the dreams that a college degree can hold for your future.
  • songs of education and being “world changers” with the entire school every Friday.
  • the adults not making excuses that prevent children from achieving the best future, no matter where they started.
  • diversity and the opportunity to be around all kinds of people and learn that there is no need for fear, just value of multiple perspectives and willingness to use words to discuss differences.

Public schools are the place that we value every individual. It doesn’t matter your ethnicity, your native language, your religion, whether or not you have a disability or giftedness. You may come from an average background or one fraught with trauma. You may be wealthy, poor, or just middle-class. You may be the child who tries to please or the child who is continually demonstrating your displeasure with the world by spinning things into chaos. In a public school, we love you, we value you and try to earn your trust. We stretch you and grow you. We teach you to collaborate and communicate with those that are nothing like you. We teach you to think critically and set goals. We teach you to read, write and problem-solve using multiple strategies. We prepare you for the ability to thrive in a diverse world with the confidence that you can not only achieve your goals, but make the world a better place.

The things that public schools do to prepare our world for a better future are not easily measured by standardized tests or accountability systems and high performance on a test doesn’t guarantee your success if you cannot relate to the 21st century world.  Many would have society believe that paying for an education is a better option, but the don’t tell you what opportunities you miss because of a separate, homogenous education

Just remember, public schools are not just a building, we are people who ensure the promise that the community makes to itself, who love all and accept all, to inspire hope for a better society and future for all.

 

Leadership: Mastering The Art of Juggling and Clear Feedback

I love metaphors.  I think they are excellent tools in learning to promote higher level thinking and help learning stick.  Metaphors provide something for us to relate to that we already know and understand so that we can connect our new learning in an innovative way. My most recent leadership metaphor came to me when I was participating in a session with the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute and they asked us to juggle scarves.  First, we had to juggle by ourselves and without any interaction or feedback from anyone else.  Very few in the room were able to juggle the scarves successfully.

juggling-scarves

After we had attempted to teach ourselves, we had the opportunity to work with others and provide feedback and encouragement.  Collaboration increased the rate of success tremendously. What resonated with me as I walked away (besides the fact of how cool it was that I learned to juggle scarves and taught someone else as well) was the power of clear, constructive feedback.

Not long after that, one of my campus leadership teams hit a real roadblock.  We have faced some real challenges this year.  People were exhausted. With Halloween, the Super Moon, and an election season with lots of negativity, not to mention some unexpected situations with students, we hadjuggling-fail stretched our productive coping mechanisms thin and resulted in a heated meeting. I know everyone left feeling frustrated.  As I reflected, I think I was most discouraged that the snowballing anxiety had resulted in angry outbursts that still weren’t necessarily clear about the real issues or root causes.  They were mostly just an expression of exasperation. I was upset with myself that my team had reached this point and I had missed the signs.  How could I have let my team down?  I definitely felt like my leadership juggling was resulting in everything hitting the ground.

The whole experience got me back to thinking about juggling scarves.  Leadership in education is much about juggling scarves.  This is because juggling scarves isn’t like juggling balls.  The motion is entirely different.  Instead of a circular motion, it is more juggling-womanof a crisscross.  Rather than an immediate gravitational force, there are a few seconds of floating.  It requires focus, rhythm, and gentle touch to get the scarves flowing. I think this is how educational leadership works as well.  You are constantly crisscrossing to monitor, check, and keep everything moving.  You have to use a gentle touch, because if you grab, cling, and forget to let go,  you can’t catch the next scarf.   You also have to keep everything at eye level to monitor the progress and make adjustments. Educational leadership has to be intentional, but with a light touch and keen perception.

juggle-quote

A few weeks later, I repeated the experience I had learned with my leadership team.  I added some of my own twists. Not only did they experience learning to juggle in isolation, my twist had to do with the type of feedback when it came to that time. The jugglers were paired with someone who could only give nonverbal feedback. They could use their faces, body language and gestures, but no words.  Some smiled and clapped.  Some looked disinterested.  Others looked angry, and some even grabbed the scarves away to demonstrate in frustration how to do it.

Feedback is just as critical.  When the team gives clear feedback about your strategies, you can use your mental energy to make adjustments and improve the flow.  When you take your eyes of the scarves and try to read someone’s face and decipher nonverbal feedback, your focus has moved off the scarves, and they are more likely to fall to the ground. As leadership teams, we have to give clear, constructive feedback on the process, so we do not get distracted from the goal and all the scarves stay up in the air. However, if the scarves fall, you don’t give up.  You pick the scarves up and start again.  Practice improves the process and the chances for success. Add in a team providing clear, constructive feedback and encouragement, and the probability of achieving the desired outcomes are even more likely.

This is how leadership works. Scarves hit the ground. Practice improves the process and the chances for success. Add in a team providing clear, constructive feedback and encouragement, and the probability of achieving the desired outcomes are even more likely.

I can say I am fortunate to have great educators around me.  They are willing to take risks, make mistakes, and learn together to do what is best for our students. As a result, I do believe that for now, all the scarves are up in the air and moving again!

I Choose Thankful

November is traditionally a time of reflections on one’s blessings, and as I think about this school year, it has been full of ups and downs and in only been 13 weeks.  One of the biggest challenges is seeing children bear such heavy burdens. Whether it is a parent’s illness, today-i-choosephysical/emotional abuse or neglect, the loss of a parent through family separation or death, or just the stress of poverty and the worry that comes with it about one’s basic needs being met, it is hard to see children suffering.  Add to this mix teachers who have their own personal stressors and a nation of unrest in a highly polarized political climate. Forget the typical school challenges full moons and holidays, folks; we are talking about real trauma.

Supporting children living with trauma can be a challenge. They bring it in the door. Trauma may not be visible, but a child in trauma will let you know immediately if they are suffering.  With their actions, their words, their lack of connection, they will let you know. They fight, they run, they shut down. Children in the most need of love often ask for it in the most unlovable ways.  It can be exhausting for those responsible for providing “trauma care” much less a high-quality education.  One could easily lose hope.

However, I have learned so much from supporting children of today.  If you can make that thankful-people-are-happyconnection, create that bond, make the child feel safe, there is no better feeling in the world. When you watch a teacher persist to form a relationship despite multiple attempts by the student to push them away, there is a sense of pride to be a part of an organization that puts first things first.

I have learned that it is in the most difficult circumstances that the biggest blessings are revealed.  We can be grateful for the challenges and know that they are helping develop our character into who we are meant to be, or we can feel mistreated.  

We always have a choice.   We can feel wronged, or we can be grateful for the challenges and know that they are tied to a greater purpose.  We can worry about the difficulties we face, or we can choose to feel blessed knowing that we will never be given more than we can handle.  We can grieve the things we do not have, or we choose to see the abundance of our lives and all the opportunities that lay before us. Thankful isn’t something that happens, it’s something you do on purpose. And when we choose gratitude, it becomes you-have-a-choiceimpossible to feel stressed.  They are two emotions that cannot exist at the same time.

So while it is difficult to see children suffer, I choose to be thankful that I get to be a positive force in their lives.  While sometimes the behavior of these students can be beyond difficult, I am blessed to have a staff willing to learn about trauma and utilize trauma-sensitive practices to support these students. While there are many times I have pondered thoughts of “if I just had more… (time, money, staff, parent involvement, resources)”, I know that in my district and community, I have an abundance of support and trust to make decisions that are best for our children, not just a few, but all of them. While it would be easy to lose faith facing such challenging circumstances, I choose to have grit and hope in the future of public education and how we can teach children coping strategies and value for each other in addition to reading, writing, and math.  I am blessed.  I am thankful.  Are you? It’s your choice.

When Things Get Messy

So I have a couple of blog posts that are in the midst of composition and then October hits. October is traditionally a hard month.  The adrenaline from the beginning of the school year wears off a bit and the demands of what is required to achieve goals for the year is now the reality.  This school year has been an unusually challenging beginning for my campus. It’s not that there were any events we haven’t dealt with before, they just seem to come wave after wave and in multiples! It’s been messy for sure.

Today I saw this:

i-dont-quit

 

I love this. We always have the power to choose our response to adversity. My staff and I have faced some crazy situations this past nine weeks, but I am always impressed by their ability to put children first and approach each challenge with grit and growth mindset.

I once had a superintendent who referred to the profession of education as the “people development business.”  In education, we aren’t creating machines that can be put together by following a blueprint or a set of instructions.  Each child we touch turns out differently and can be unpredictable even when using a similar formula.  Working with little humans can be messy, but it is always worth it because the joy of watching a child learn and evolve to their potential is always exciting.  Besides, it’s when things get “messy” that the real learning occurs, for everyone, not just the children.

Finding the Sweet Spot

“To transform schools successfully, we need to navigate the difficult space between letting go of old strategies and grabbing on to new ones.” Robert John Meehan

This quote struck me this week.  It is true to have a real transformation in schools, we must master this balance of old and new strategies.  This dual mastery is especially critical if we are to escape the constraints of a dysfunctional standardized testing cycle. We must find that optimum point of where critical elements of instruction intersect to have the most effect on student learning -“the sweet spot.”


As I began teaching twenty-five years ago, we ushered in the beginning of the demanding, rigorous, standardized testing era.  The tests at that time were increasingly more complex than anything we had seen before.  They were tied to accountability and a school’s performance on these tests was publicized for the world to see.

No worries.  Teachers were smart.  If the world said these tests were important, we could figure out ways to ensure students were successful.  I remember as a young, fifth-grade math teacher using a strategy that could assist even a struggling reader to determine the correct operation to use to solve the word problem. In reading, we could pinpoint the critical information the students needed to answer the questions, even if they didn’t have the stamina to read the entire lengthy passage.  I don’t think it was that we were trying to shortcut student learning.  We could essentially teach our students to follow a set routine of steps in a strategy, and they could be successful.  We were designing learning according to what society valued.  What was being communicated was that “tests” and “following instructions” were what was important.

authentic-skills

Over time, when have seen the shortfalls of this focus. Society has adjusted their perspective and decided tests based on this limited thinking were not important. We have realized that many students were crippled with no ability to solve a problem when they are not given a specific strategy or procedure.  We unwittingly created dependent students who struggled to approach problems with creativity.  As a result, tests have systematically been recreated to make those strategies from twenty-five years ago almost impossible to use. Words formally used as triggers are now embedded as distractors to see if students understand what they are doing. Tests are now designed to force higher level thinking.  They don’t rely on one set strategy that the teacher can say, “just follow these steps.”  It just won’t work. Regurgitation of facts or actions is essentially useless. To pass the “new generation” of high stakes assessments, our students must be proficient readers, mathematicians, communicators, and creative problem solvers.

Is this a bad thing?  I don’t think so.  Is it needed for our students to prepare for the future they face? Absolutely!  Is it easy? No way.  Essentially, it requires teachers and students to
“unlearn” everything they relied on in the past. Everything that worked and deemed them a success previously is now ineffective to achieve the new bar.

For those teachers in elementary schools today, it’s like being told you have to quit a bad habit, but you will continue to be judged on performance.  I liken it to giving up caffeine. Imagine you have been a heavy coffee or coke drinker.  Now you are giving up all caffeine cold turkey.  You know you need to do this for your health, but you still have to perform at high levels despite the fact that your body might be going through some withdrawal and experiencing caffeine headaches.  Finding that balance of teaching students at authentic levels with high problem-solving and performing triage for gaps between the newer test versions and previous ones take talent, practice, and hard work.

Effectively teaching students at high levels with meaningful, real-life problem-solving while performing triage for gaps between the newer test versions and previous ones doesn’t happen overnight.  Measures that previously determined students, teachers, and schools were high performers have been revised and now deem them lacking.  It is not the people who have changed.  It is the tests.  It is the expectations.  Even businesses learning-testingacknowledge that systematic change takes three to five years. There is often an implementation dip after starting new methods.  I would think that when you add young children to the mix, it can take a little longer. With that, we must be careful not to misinterpret or abuse test results. We are comparing apples to oranges.  These new tests are definitely not like any test you took in school.  It’s not in anyone’s best interest to make assumptions or broad generalizations, especially not the student.

This year is my third year as a principal.  I have been amazed at how fast positive change in instruction is taking hold on my campus.  I am blessed with a team of educators who know why they do what they do.  They understand what we need to do to prepare our students.  They have the grit to persist even when traveling this difficult road.  We are starting to see glimmers of this new way of thinking in our students while putting in extensive work to overcome gaps created by previous approaches.  They live in that sweet spot.

Yesterday, I read a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

These words were written in a paper Dr. King wrote in 1947. Maybe this change in values of education represents the next swing of the teaching pendulum.  Or maybe it has just taken us 70 years to find the sweet spot.

The Sound of Silence

While sometimes silence of welcomed, I have to say that in a learning organization, silence can be deadly. Silence in a learning organization means a lack of feedback. It means that people are likely too content, apathetic, scared or angry to communicate with specific feedback, and this is dangerous. It reminds me of the Simon and Garfunkel song:

Sound of silence

In a learning organization, feedback is critical to growth. Sometimes this feedback is positive: “You’re on the right track.” “The effort is paying off.” “The strategy you are using is getting results.” Sometimes feedback offers a correction: “Instead of this, I need you to…” “It might work better if…” “Next time I’d rather you …” Other times feedback sounds like this: “I hate it when you…” “You messed up.” “There’s going to be consequences.” However, even when feedback is negative, it gives the one receiving the feedback a chance to learn and grow if they choose.

People can only guess if their actions are working and more time and energy is spent trying to decipher the silence than working on creating results. “Is what I’m going working?” “Is what I’m doing wrong?” “Why won’t he/she speak to me?” It’s a guess and check method spent mostly on guessing.

Several years ago I worked in an organization where all feedback stopped. The “boss” literally quit speaking to me. In public, I was invisible. Even in a bathroom where there were only two of us, I did not exist. Awkward! I guess I eventually figured out the message. I was not needed, and it was better to go elsewhere. The crazy thing is, if the “boss” had just given me specific feedback, we both probably would have gotten what we wanted much more quickly without a lot of hassle.

It is imperative supervisors give feedback. Too often I see leaders who are afraid to have difficult conversations. They suffer in silence until their aggravation results in an attitude of “done”. At that point, growth and recovery are no longer an option. What if the leader would have just said what needed to be said in a professional way? What if the leader coached their employee? What potential greatness was lost because the leader remained silent? What relationship was lost because things were allowed to become contentious?

Don’t get me wrong. The responsibility of feedback does not lie solely on the shoulders of feedbackleaders. All members of an organization have a responsibility of providing feedback. I tell my staff all the time that I don’t want them just to say yes and agree to everything I say. I need their thoughts, their consideration of unintended consequences and problem-solving, their ability to piggyback and make the idea even better. I need to know if something I have done has made their job harder. Their feedback cannot always result in “their way” because as a leader I always have to consider the big picture for the organization. However, without their feedback, how do I grow? How do I become better for them?

With all of this said, the most growth is going to occur when feedback is professional. While angry feedback is still probably better than silence, it is still destructive. It takes a great deal of energy for those involved in angry feedback to get beyond the emotion and focus on growth again. It is possible, but again, often angry feedback is just the explosion that occurs after a prolonged silence where the feedback was bottled up too long.

If you are a part of a learning organization, here are some tips to defeat the deadly sound of silence:

  • Give feedback, in good times and bad. People you work with need to know. It’s way more efficient than guessing. Each individual’s background experiences may muddy the water of interpreting “silence”
  • Feedback should be a two-way street. Both the leader and members of the organization should give feedback so that everyone has a chance to grow.
  • While feedback is better than silence, sometimes you may need a moment to compose yourself. Don’t give feedback in the heat of the moment, but don’t wait too long either. Feedback should be timely and professional.feedback matters
  • Be specific. Say what you mean and mean what you say. The more specific you are with your feedback, the more likely you are to get what you need.
  • Don’t ever allow yourself to become so comfortable that feedback stops. At that point, so does growth. Today’s good is tomorrow’s mediocre.
  • If you are the leader, create venues for your organization to provide you with feedback. Surveys, exit tickets after professional learning or staff meetings, and Google docs are all great ways to collect feedback. While I’m not a huge fan of anonymous feedback (it can be as bad as silence in the fact it doesn’t provide an avenue for clarification), I recognize that sometimes you have to start their of those you lead don’t feel safe giving feedback. It is a starting place, but the leader should work diligently to build relationships and get people comfortable with feedback that is specific and individualized.

Yes, sometimes it is easier to be silent. Silence can punish those with whom we are upset. It can send the message “I don’t even care enough about you to acknowledge your existence”. However, it rarely results in growth for anyone. Feedback with a growth the-sound-of-silence-simon-garfunkel-8-638mindset takes both grit and grace. It takes the grit to put others’ need to grow before one’s personal comfort of staying silent. Even more, it takes grace to give feedback in a manner that others are willing to listen and hear the intended message so that growth can occur.

Additional Resources for Giving Feedback:

If You Take All the Mouse’s Cookies

This is an article I wrote published this month in National Association of Elementary School Principals’ magazine “The Principal”.

https://www.naesp.org/principal-novemberdecember-2015-breaking-cycle/inspire-growth