Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gift of Time

On November 1, I my post was entitled "How Are We Doing So Far?" and it was an attempt to collect some feedback about how things are going in Montpelier Public Schools.  I was grateful to receive a number of responses from this post about what we are doing.  In that post, I promised that I would share the feedback I received.

There were a variety of responses to the first question about one thing that has gone well.  From PLP conferences, to a smooth transition for Mike McRaith into MHS, from the addition of a special educator for each grade at UES to the pride of the teams people are serving on, the diversity of answers made me very proud.  There was no theme that emerged from the feedback on this question.

For the one thing that needs improvement, there was a clear theme: more time!  For the one thing that people hoped to see before the end of the year, the same theme emerged: more time!  More on the theme of time in the latter part of this blog post.

The final question also received a variety of responses.  From feedback too specific to share to finalizing the teachers' contract in MPS, from more leadership to the desire to see PD like Breathe, this question also elicited a variety of responses from which no theme emerged.

So it is clear that folks in MPS need the gift of time.  It is true, the expectations are high for educators in the State of Vermont, and specifically for us in Montpelier Public Schools.  There are several initiatives that we are working on and it demands a great deal of professional attention from everyone.  Plus, students continue to show up on a daily basis and they require love and instruction based on their needs.

One of the items that I added this fall was voluntary participation in the Integrated Field Review with the Agency of Education.  I chose to volunteer us for this experience to receive feedback about the work we do in MPS and ways that we can improve.  I know it was a tremendous amount of work, in addition to what we are already required to do.  I am grateful for how well it went and I look forward to receiving the final report from the Agency of Education.

Given the feedback that I received from this blog post, as well as during conversations I have had during Office Hours, I want to reassure MPS that I will not be volunteering us for any additional initiatives.  We have much to do and I want us to do it well.

I want to continue to think with everyone in MPS about how we can be creative about our time with our students and with our colleagues.  Time is such a gift, it is fleeting and firm, never fully within our grasp.  We have only so much time to be present to our families and friends, and only so much time to serve our students and colleagues.  That balance is critical to doing right in both our personal and professional lives.

As it is the week of Thanksgiving, I am giving myself the gift of time.  I will not be writing a blog post.  I am giving myself the gift of time and will share more of it with my family this week.  Be good to yourselves this week - give yourselves the gift of time and share more of it with people who want or need a little more of you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving break!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It's All About Relationships

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had several moments that reminded me how much our work depends on relationships.

At the end of October, the Rowland Foundation offered their one-day conference at the University of Vermont.  It is a tremendous event where students and adults meet to learn from others, be inspired together, and grow our commitment to Vermont education.  One of the highlights for me each year is to meet people in person who I follow on Twitter.  Twitter (and any social media) is a way to connect with people based on the merit of the idea (Mike Martin).  Even in such a small state, there are plenty of people who I follow that I have never met.  For the first time this year, I was able to introduce other people who follow each other on Twitter - and it was wonderful.  Seeing the look on people's faces as they make the connection between a Twitter handle and the person standing in front of them.  It's about relationships.

In my work, I spend a great deal of time being present.  I spend a great deal of time listening.  I spend a great deal of time caring about the people I work with in Montpelier Public Schools.  As part of this, I often learn a great deal about people and their lives.  Occasionally, people share things with me that are deeply personal and meaningful to them.  There was one such moment this week when I found myself listening to someone share a part of their life that I was unaware of.  As it was happening, I found myself humbled that I was being let in to this person's life.  Later that day, I got a note from this person saying, "Thanks for having my back."  It's all about relationships.

Another moment took place in my office.  Someone came to speak to me as a follow-up to a question that I had asked.  We ended up speaking for a bit and at the end of the conversation, this person stood up, extended their hand, looked me in the eye and said, "I'm sorry."  It's all about relationships.

Finally, all this reminded me of a Twitter conversation I had a couple of weeks ago during #satchat.  For those of you new to Twitter, read up from the bottom, that's where the conversation starts.

Technology is a great way to be introduced to people and learn about who they are.  Then we need to be present, to listen, to learn and to take care of the people who are around us.  We need to do that in person, face to face.  The holiday season is almost upon us and what makes (or breaks) this time of year are the people around us.  Take good care of those people and be sure they take good care of you.

There will be a new sign on my door this week: It's all about relationships.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

On Being Grateful

Last week in Montpelier Pubic Schools was in a word: hectic.  There were only three days with students, with a half-day Professional Development Day and then a day and a half of parent teacher conferences.  In addition, Vertical Teams met after school on Monday and on Wednesday we hosted colleagues from Lamoille South Supervisory Union, Addison Northwest Supervisory Union and the Agency of Education for an Integrated Field Review.  To top it all off, there was a water main break that impacted Main Street Middle School on Thursday, so parent-teacher conferences needed to be rescheduled.  Just a couple of things on our plate...

It would be easy to say that's too much, and truth be told, it was an incredibly busy week.  And still, I came away feeling so tremendously proud of all the students, faculty, and staff in MPS.  Our week was wonderful and the credit goes to all the adults and students who come to MPS on a daily basis.  Everyone, every single person rose to meet the high expectations of our week.

I am grateful for our students - first and foremost.  They bring a candor and honesty that children are known for.  Yet, our students impressed our visitors by how thoughtful and articulate they were about their own learning, from UES to MSMS to MHS.  We know this is who they regularly are.  It was validating to hear it from a group of visitors.

I am grateful for our staff.  From instructional assistants supporting the work of classroom teachers to support staff ensuring that critical work is accurate and complete to our food service professionals ensuring we eat a healthy meal, to our facilities crew showing pride in our places.  Stewardship of the people and stewardship of our buildings, ensures that relationships are preserved and maintained while learning happens.

I am grateful for our teachers.  The consummate professionals who serve our students day in and day out.  They ensure that each and every learner that comes into the classrooms in our district, PK - 12 has the opportunity to grow and learn given their individual potentials.  They are dedicated to their craft, they are dedicated to their students, they are dedicated to their professional development.

I am grateful for our Leadership Team.  I am humbled by the educational leaders that serve the children and families of Montpelier.  Their openness to growth, their desire to grow in their work, and their humor sustains me as we lead the work of MPS.

While I know that Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, out of the hectic nature of the first full week of November, I find myself fully basking in the gratitude for those who serve Montpelier with me.  It continues to be a professional privilege to do this meaningful work.  Thank you!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How Are We Doing So Far?

By now, you have all (hopefully) turned your clocks back and enjoyed an extra hour of something this weekend.  If you have little children, it's possible that you didn't quite enjoy that hour.  I do hope that whatever the extra hour brought you this weekend, it was enjoyable because let's face it, time is a gift.

As I reflected on this idea this weekend, I am aware that we are entering into a particularly busy time of the school year.  Over the next several weeks, we have an ambitious schedule for education our students and taking good care of ourselves.  Both are critical if we are going to serve our students, ourselves, and our families.

In an effort to be a part of the cycle of continuous improvement in Montpelier Public Schools, I offer this post as the opportunity for feedback.  If you are an employee of MPS, please click on this link to share your feedback.  If you are not an employee of MPS, please feel welcome to copy and paste the following questions below and share your responses in the comment section.  I will keep the link active and will take comments for the next two weeks.  I will compile and share responses for my blog post on November 22.

  • What is one thing that has gone well this school year?
  • What is one thing that needs improvement?
  • What is one thing you hope to see happen before the end of this school year?
  • What can I do better to serve Montpelier Public Schools?

The last idea that went through my head as I was reflecting on our work thus far in MPS, was gratitude.  I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this community, with a professionally dedicated faculty, a staff with an endless amount of energy, a Leadership Team with a student-driven vision and a School Board committed to their own professional growth in governance.  It continues to be a privilege to serve this community of students and families!