I’ve figured out why summer isn’t my favorite holiday any more. It’s because I am a principal. More specifically, it is because I do all the work that make a principal’s job what it is and am deprived of the best benefits. I’m not around students. When you are crazy about students, there is always something to appraise and admire and applaud. I’m around teachers a lot less. When you are crazy about empowering teachers there is always something to learn together and solve together and win together. But students and teachers go away during the summer. They deserve a break, but for me being away from them means losing the main motivation to plow through everything else. Here’s the best thing about summer though: it comes right before a new school year begins!
Summer is an amazing time to look to the future. Teachers and principals write our New Year’s Resolutions in July and August. We have hope. We have crazy dreams. We have plans. We have a burning itch to take one more crack at shaping the future of the human race. We don’t draft those super-fancy acronymed documents because we have to; we are describing how we will take the fight to ignorance and apathy and anarchy this year.
In painful honesty, this summer has been excruciating for me. At the same time though, I am gazing into a future that is so bright that I have exchanged my sunglasses for a welding visor. I therefore do here highly resolve to accept the role of agitator and innovator; of disruptor and mentor; of collaborator and victor. Three realizations make this a decision that can not be avoided in good conscience:
1) I work with a team of teachers that is unlike any I have known before. With due respect to them, there are not individually the brightest edustars I have called colleague. They are each and collectively committed (often rabidly) to growth. It is incredible to see a professional conversation break out spontaneously on Twitter between teachers at 10:00 on a summer night or to see half the parking lot full (of secondary teachers’ cars) on a Tuesday or to have teacher after teacher say “hey, what about this” or “I’ve been reading this” or “why don’t we consider this”. I imagine that Chuck Daly must have felt a little like this in the summer of ’92. As coach of the original Dream Team, winning was a foregone conclusion. The outcome was not the question; the question was how magnificent and beautiful a performance he could lead that team to produce. Our team’s season tips off officially in 19 days. I can’t wait.
2) I am writing this post from Mooresville, NC where I am participating in a team visit to a school system renown for their 1:1 digital initiative. I have learned at least one whole separate blog post worth of stuff in the last two days. The most encouraging take-away I have collected so far, however, is that our school and our system are on the right path. We are ready (and very willing) to be the kind of schools that prepare students for the future that is waiting for them. We are here learning from eagles and the best news is that we are not ostriches! When as teachers and schools and a system we acknowledge that the future should guide our teaching to a far greater degree than the past, we position ourselves to help ensure that future wiil be as bright as it can be.
3) The Prayer of Jabez was a little book that was popular several years ago. Central to the book is a prayer that appears in the book of 1 Chronicles in the Bible. Jabez prays “‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.” I am having a Jabez kind of summer. A more secular way of expressing this idea is that my professional learning network is growing at an incredible rate. I have connected with many amazing and (in some cases) well known educators this summer – some in person and some through Twitter. I am making plans with principals within my system and across the county line to establish strong collaborative ties between the two of us and between our schools. Several mentoring opportunities have come my way. I have had the opportunity to share some of my learning with others through presentations this summer and have more sessions lined up before school begins. I am pushing and prodding and encouraging my teachers to share their learning with others – and they are doing so. For me, all of this stems from a very simple belief: every time I learn something, I accept the responsibility to share with someone else. If I learn professionally and never share with others, I am selfish and am in danger of becoming a stagnant pool. Running water is so much more healthy.
As this summer winds to a close, consider these very simple questions: what is your New Year’s Resolution? Will start or join a revolution this year? The young people we serve deserve that kind of commitment from you.
If you are inclined to share, I’d love to hear about your resolution or the revolution you are plotting.