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We Are One

Since the beginning of the year, I have regularly posted pictures of the fantastic school lunches served every day by our cooks and cafeteria staff. For people working outside of schools this may seem strange, but these ladies work incredibly hard – limited by federal law and mandates – to provide a hot, nutritious lunch to an audience that may not always appreciate their efforts.

Last Tuesday, the ladies served a fantastic, tasty pulled pork sandwich that surpassed what I have had in restaurants that charge significant prices for braised pork with ketchup and apple cider vinegar that passes for pulled pork.”

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As I took my first bite, I noticed something unexpected – a nice, smokey flavor that only comes from actual smoked pork shoulder or helped along with liquid smoke. This sandwich, along with all of the other healthy options you can see on the tray above filled me up to the point that I could not finish my entire lunch.

Sated, and feeling grateful, I returned to my office and started thinking about what I had learned from my friends Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf about the importance of Anchor Conversations and noticing the impact of choices people make. If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of Lead Like A Pirate. You will find ways to “make school amazing for your students and staff.”

I went into the “treasure chest” in my office – yes, I have a treasure chest in my office full of “pirate” booty to engage staff – and pulled out a card I use for noticing the impact. I let the ladies know I noticed their use of liquid smoke and told them I appreciated it and that it made a distinct difference in the taste of the sandwich. And I let them know I appreciated everything they do daily to serve good food. I also thanked them for making lunch an enjoyable experience. If Anchor Conversations and Noticing the Impact work with teaching staff, why not with other members of the school team?

At the senior high school, we have the theme #DCEWeAreOne, and I take that to heart. When I say “We are one,” I mean everyone. Our cooks, servers, secretaries, educational assistants, custodians, teachers, administrators, athletic directors, department heads – EVERYONE – matter. Without all of the pieces working well and working together, this place we call school does not run.

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I did send a handwritten card to the cafeteria supervisor, but I want to make sure to publicly thank Kathryn Jensen, Samantha Kind, Deborah Koval, Sarah Kraemer, Brenda Niemuth, Karry Salber, Cheryl Suchon, and Anne Wierzba for all they do every day. The work they do and the choices they make do not go unnoticed!

Challenge: Who on your staff might not be “feeling the love?” How can you show them appreciation, notice the specific choices they make in their job, and give them recognition for what they do that helps this place we call school to run?

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The Power of Empower

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The picture above doesn’t look like much, but the story behind it says a lot about the power of Empower.

The words Data Retreat and Empowerment do not seem like they belong in the same sentence. That could not be further from the truth. On Monday, like a lot of school districts across the country, the DC Everest School District sat down as schools to look through our data and identify actionable goals for the upcoming school year that align with district priorities. Still doesn’t sound like much fun? It is when you look at what happened on Monday.

As a young teacher at Oshkosh West, I worked under a number of principals who felt that a top-down approach would move the school where it needed to go. After all, the principals were experts and professionals and we expected them to have all of the answers. Too often, though, they were experts in their content areas and sometimes sound school managers but could do little to move the needle on student achievement. Towards the end of my time as a classroom teacher, two administrators – Ann Schultz and @Erin Kohl – trusted the staff as professionals who believed in teacher self efficacy and they let go of the reigns.

Ann got some tough feedback her first year as our principal and rather than rationalizing it away or dismissing it, she took that feedback and made meaningful changes to empower staff the following year. It was the beginning of a turn-around.

Erin came in after a career in elementary education and quickly recognized what a tremendous staff she had and she continued to leverage the power of her staff and leaders. She worked with a team of staff leaders who read Jim Collins Good to Great and developed their “Hedgehog” focus – that one thing Oshkosh West could do great. And then she worked with staff and got out of their way.

This takes me back to the photo that leads this post. In the middle of all of our messy work, we took time out to take in the wonder of the full solar eclipse. Some staff members took a quick look and passed welding masks or glasses to other members so they could experience the same totality. I became even more impressed when some of the staff took the equipment to a group of student athletes so that they, too, could share the experience.

That one small act exemplified the work we had done that morning and afternoon. Teachers wanted to share their passion and excitement with students and each other. As administrators, we jumped right in with our staff and enjoyed the ride – rather than act as task masters who had to complete an assignment.

As we went back inside to continue our work, the excitement seemed to carry over into the room. As administrators, we solicited even more staff input into our building goal and how we might measure progress towards that goal. Several staff members also looked for ways we might solicit student input into our decisions. I felt the same excitement that Ann and Erin must have felt years ago as they let go of the reigns and trusted the staff to make decisions that will support student learning and achievement.

Yes, there will be pockets of staff that will resist or not share the “wonder of totality” that we did, but I believe in the power of those teachers in that room. I believe that one small act like making time for the eclipse can change the dynamic and begin to change a building’s culture. And I believe that this is just the beginning. DC Everest Senior High School is a great school – I believe we have changed trajectory towards becoming a phenomenal school. I cannot wait to see where this rocket ship takes us.

How about you? Can you pinpoint the moment where everything changed at your school? In its culture? In its success? I’d love to hear how some of you have experienced totality.

 

PR Palooza!

In my new role as a high school AP at DC Everest Senior High School, I am tasked with developing and maintaining our presence and brand via various social media channels. This morning, I sent the email below to all staff at the high school. Rather than wait for our beginning-of-the-year staff meetings, I decided to get out the word early. I’m also hoping some of the folks in the building want to help me spread the word about the awesome that takes place every day in our building. Below is the email I sent out to staff.

Hey everyone!

Hopefully you all have received my intro letter and are starting to get to know me.

One of my roles as the new AP is to maintain our Social Media (SM) presence. To that end, we have added an Instagram and Twitter account to our arsenal of SM channels, and students and parents are beginning to find us there. In my time at Clintonville Middle School, we took a toxic, negative culture and turned it around – and in the beginning it was all about telling the positive stories going on in our building. We do not have that culture here at DCESRH, so we get to simply share the awesome you all create for kids every day. Honestly, we just need to share the work you do every day to keep the positives rolling.

As such, please make sure to contact me about activities, etc. that you want to publish to our SM channels. I do not want to create extra work for you, so if you contact me ahead of time, I can come into your classrooms to take photos or video. Heck, we could even ask the Help Desk to take some video and help you edit it down for posting.

If you haven’t yet had a chance, check out our three SM channels:

  • https://www.facebook.com/DC-Everest-Senior-High-School-1533150163603717/ (Like our page, please – it helps drive traffic and can expand our reach)- Kids will tell you that parentus lameus hang out on Facebook, along with the curious but wary grandparentus oldus. Don’t let them fool you, though. The kids are coming there, too. Since we dropped the Football preview video on July 28, we have added 60 page “Likes” and drawn a wider audience. I believe we will eclipse the 600 “Like” mark before school even starts. I’d love to feature your club, sport, or activity so those parents and grandparents can see through the school walls. Please, let us help you to tell your story.
  • https://www.instagram.com/dceseniorhigh/ – This is where the cool kids hang out (The really cool kids hand out on Snapchat, but we can get there later). Instagram has some great tools, and we are using a service to let us get really granular. Some pics and videos are kid-oriented and belong on Instagram. Some should go to only Facebook. Others should go to all of our channels, and we can do that. The ability to use filters to create stunning effects makes Instagram a popular choice for kids (Plus, the Kardashians live on Instagram – negative for society but a plus for us in attracting kids).
  • https://twitter.com/DCESeniorHigh – We will have to see how Twitter goes. The district has had lukewarm success thus far, but we have to give folks a reason to come to Twitter – “If you build it, they will come” – or they won’t come. A number of you already hang out on Twitter, and that is AWESOME. I am there, too: @jeffreyasee We can utilize Twitter in a variety of ways, and I will probably start next week by hashtagging the TLL training next week and calling on some of you to share your learning via a Tweet. I’ll even do the Tweeting and video a few responses to hear what you learn next week and share that learning. I can even point you to some folks you might want to follow on Twitter who make great peeps from whom to learn.
I realize that is a lot of info in one email. If you have suggestions about how we might leverage these channels, I am all ears. I want our school team to tear down the figurative school walls and build even more parent and community support for the excellent work you all do. If you want to learn how to set up your own Twitter account or try something in your classroom, please come see me.
Kids will be here before we know it! Enjoy these last few weeks of summer and I cannot wait to meet all of you in person.