Grace Giving

Back to school is in full swing. For my district, school started August 14th. Everyone has key tasks they need to be accomplished before kids pass through our doors on the first day and it continues through the first day to make sure things continue as smoothly as possible; whether that be tech-related or not. As a leader, I want to make sure every school has everything that they need from a technology standpoint. I want to give it to them in the best way possible and as soon as possible. We do our best every day and have (what we think) are the best-laid plans, but some things just don’t work out the way we had hoped. Kind of like that lesson plan we remember spending tons of time and energy on only to have the vision of how we imagined it going and how it actually went be two completely different things.

Summer is always an extra busy time in the technology department for a school district. This is our ideal timeframe to make widespread updates, get new devices ready for teachers and/or students, and any other projects that are just easier to get accomplished when teachers and students are on summer break. Really, it’s not just a tech department thing, it’s a system-wide practice for any department in any school district.

What I’ve found myself saying a lot during this hectic time of year is, “I’m sorry.”. We apologize for missed deadlines, dropping the ball on something that should have already been done, or for delays in replying to a particular email. We need to remember that we’re all heading towards the same goal and be more giving of something that all humans should give more of and can help this time of year feel a little less stressful…grace. It’s one of those things that we need to give each other more often because there are always going to be times when we need it given to us.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Ever have one of those days? When you feel unsure with just about everything? You wonder, “How am I the best person for this work?”. You second guess, have self-doubt, and always worry about whether or not you’re making the best decision for students/teachers/staff/team, etc., etc. It’s a hard place to find yourself, and I like to think I’m not alone. Actually, I know some of my friends share a similar struggle. There’s comfort in that; having people in your corner who either are there with you or have been there at one time or another. When you feel totally lost, clueless, frustrated – like having to install a new light bulb that isn’t going to come on no matter how tight you screw it in even after double checking that the electricity is working.

We’re hard on ourselves about this. We’re afraid to ask for help many times for fear of seeming incompetent or we worry too much what others will think of us. How many kids do you know that have the same struggles in their learning? It feels like, through the media, including social media, we’ve created too much negative stigma about what it means to be vulnerable and reach out for help. If we as adults struggle with these feelings, imagine how it must feel for kids.

It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help. It should be okay if you don’t know the best answer right away. It’s a culture thing we need to bring back to our work as teachers, learners, and to our schools.

Letting Others Shine

I don’t attend a lot of concerts, but last night was easily one of the best I’ve ever been to in my life. I saw the man himself, Billy Joel. That dude brings it! He also makes no qualms about it and recognizes the fact that he has no new songs and knows exactly which ones people want to hear the most. He truly performs for his fans and for his love of music.

One of my biggest takeaways from the concert though, was how Billy made time in the show for others in his band to perform on their own. Some of them were highlighted for their specific instrument (trumpet, guitar, drums, etc.) during some of the songs he performed, but then others were completely given the spotlight for an entire song and he backed them up. One band member gave an amazing tribute to Aretha Franklin with a cover of “Respect” and brought the house down! Another band member sang opera (yes, opera!) his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” and that piece always blows me out of my chair.

These are just a couple examples. I then started paralleling it to leadership in education. How often do we as leaders (school or district level) not only recognize our peoples’ strengths but provide them the stage/medium to showcase those strengths? There is tremendous strength from within if we make the time to recognize it and showcase it. Let someone lead a staff meeting around an area they excel or let them lead a session on a district PD day. Or maybe invite them to write a post for the school/district blog to showcase the awesome things they’re doing. There’s lots of ways to let our people shine. We need to do more of it!

Billy Joel Concert in Kansas City