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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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Connections Lead To Ripples

I try to convey to others the importance of connecting to others in today’s world of education. During our opening convocation, Todd Whitaker shared an example of the power of Twitter by relating what happened on the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Teachers across the country shared lessons they had planned for the occasion.
One teacher had created a multi-disciplinary unit aligned to standards. In response, a HS physics teacher shared a unit he had developed allowing students to work through the physics involved in that sinking – aligned to standards. Todd shared several other examples and then laid down the following challenge: I’m sure your lessons to mark the sinking of the Titanic were great, but what might they have been had they collaborated with people around the world?
I am connected with a brilliant group of passionate, brilliant educators from around the world, including Jay Posick, an intermediate school principal from “Little ol’ Merton, Wisconsin,” as he would say. I shared out what I was doing by using a Google Form so teachers could easily share with me positive things they saw in some of their students, so I could call home and share with parents on the teacher’s behalf.
Jay relayed that he had asked teachers to take pictures of students new to the school and district and describe what they were doing, so he could email the parents and assure them the student was doing well and adjusting to his school. I LOVED this idea, so I emailed my staff and asked them to do the same thing. Even though I am new and still making connections with staff, a number of them took me up on my request.
I share the email I sent to staff afterwards because it cannot fit into 140 characters and it is too long to share via Voxer – even if it is a good story. But, I still want to share it because it illustrates the importance of being connected, both digitally and in person. I have removed student names and identifiers:
Good evening, everyone!
I wanted to say a sincere thanks to those of you who indulged me and sent photos of our new students doing well in our classrooms.  Five teachers took me up on my request and sent in photos with a brief explanation. The parents have responded more positively than you can imagine!
One student’s dad was thrilled, and he passed along that he appreciated seeing her smile because she has had trouble adjusting – which I passed along to Jodi Devine, her counselor. Even better, another student hails from out of state, and his mom had concerns about a new state and a new school. At the Parent Visitation Night, she approached me and thanked me for sending the email, but I said she should make sure to thank Scott Jirik because he captured that moment – I just passed along good news.
Why do I share this with you? Because I firmly believe that it is the little things that allow us to accomplish the big things. I received a phone call from Laticia in Nutrition Services today telling me that that male student’s mom had called and wanted to pay off some negative lunch balances for some of our students. Think about that. She’s new to our district, but because Scott let her know her kid was safe with us and doing well, she wanted to take care of other students not doing as well.
It’s all about ripples. Alone, they may not seem like much, but together???
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As always, thanks for tolerating my obnoxious positivity and treating me like I belong here. I can’t wait to see what the next ripple brings – or who creates that ripple.
Call to Action: How will you get connected and use those connections to help others create ripples?