Sunday, November 29, 2015

White Space for "all" kids is not going to work

I am starting to see a trend in education that bothers me. I don't want this to take on that "group think" mentality that so much does... So here is my attempt to refute the idea of White Spaces for all "our kids"

White Spaces are not going to work as the twittersphere thinks they will.  Very simple.  What works on twitter does not work in the classroom, in many cases and many schools.  The reason is not because White Spaces as an idea is bad.  But because I know some of you are already thinking, “how can I implement White Space in my building/classroom?”  We do sometimes have bad ideas in education.  The reason is because so many of us are going to adopt this as best practices with little more than a twitter chat or blog post and a feeling to start and implement.

This is reality, and sometimes these ideas are good to push thinking and sometimes they appear so simple and available that anyone can implement them.  That is what scares me so much with this idea of White Space.  Anyone and everyone could possibly implement it with nothing more than a feeling that this the right thing to do.  Please don’t operate just on feelings or pictographs that inspire you.  

Especially with the students that many of us deal with every day.  They need a focus and a cognitive growth target in order to focus their thinking.  They don’t care what Einstein said about creativity.  It is important to read, most important skill ever, but even more so is the skill to be able to think.  You might think White Space, as defined by how #edupeople are beginning to define it, means open and free time to do this.  Well maybe in a perfect world, but don’t be mislead to think that just you giving or allotting time for student creativity will result in students being creative.  
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This will not be the case.  Not because I don’t believe in our students, “our kids,” but because I know they need some structure and consistency in order to succeed.  There may be a small percentage of privileged students that could succeed in this environment, but there are many more that can’t.    

Business has used White Space for the past 10+ years.  The idea is to give people a focus and time to think it through problems.  It is independent work with purpose, within framework of Time, Place, Path, and Pace.  This is not a new #eduidea. Chill out folks, and just use good pedagogy.  Create White Space through choice and attention to learning styles, not just time allotted or a space like the corner to sit, and expect that creative magic is going to happen.   

Don’t jump on the new ideas like, WHITE SPACE, that do not help our students.  Don’t ask how can we implement this in our school?  Better to ask, “What is this?”  read, talk, listen, and think about it before you say, “This is a great idea, how can we implement it?”  White Space is not a “Get out of Jail Free Card” to just give to students and they see freedom, creativity, and the proverbial light.  My students need a focus to think metacognitively and to self-actualize.  Think with purpose and think space (not white) and how it can play a role.  But it should be intentional for them to be able to achieve this.    
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Don’t make it Vanilla, don’t limit it to some “thoughts” and some Memes that will create a culture of learning.  That is not good enough for my kids.  They not only don’t care, but when they go home they care even less.  They go home to houses with no White Space and live in an environment where White Space sometimes is even uncomfortable.  There is always noise, that is why when in our schools they make sure they are heard.  They don’t want White Space, they want voice, a much different topic.  So how do we reach them?  

The goal of any educational system is to cultivate learners, growers, and productive citizens.  To create entrepreneurs of thought, just giving them space is not going to work.  We need steps, scaffolding, modeling at times, and possibly graphic organizers to help them.  Then you get out of the way and let them do the hard work.  Give them choices and match their learning styles, customize the experience for them as much as possible.  Don’t just leave them alone and expect creative thought.  So if you are thinking an environment of creativity and learning is simply leaving students alone, don’t.  

We are dealing with 5th graders reading on a 1st grade or lower level.  Tell them to take White Space and you get “acting out”.  So stop right now promoting this as something that is for all kids.  If you think your students are ready for White Space as you describe it, don’t make it about all kids.  It is not, it is for the privileged and small population of students.  

“WE DO THIS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR KIDS.” That is always the argument, or is that just something you attach to an idea like a bumper sticker to a car to send a message.  I never use that term.  Because quite frankly at this point, if I am not assuming my decisions are what is best for kids and I have to utter those words, then I am trying to convince myself and therefore had doubt to begin.  Many students will think White Space, by name is derogatory.  Just call it space to learn, with guidance.  Again this is pedagogy and teaching, it does not need a title beyond that.  Nothing new or innovative.        

Space needs a purpose, if not we leave behind all those that are not achieving.  

Here are some ideas for Space:
  • Have a focus task, project, or set of questions.
  • Allow students to listen to music if they want or quietly brainstorm with peers,
  • Make sure your task, project, or questions forces them to put themselves in someone else's perspective or requires them deep reflection.
  • Make it relevant, don’t talk about the beach if most of your students have never been there.
Hmmmm…… Sounds like good teaching and great classroom culture.  Don’t jump on something just for a conversation amongst adults.  The repeated divergence and thoughts that we are going to be innovative by coming up with new words to define something we already do is distracting and ultimately hurting our students.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Who is Responsible? Why and How?

About 5 years ago I watched a stand up routine on TV by Chris Rock, one of the funniest things that I have ever heard.  At one point he said, "I take care of my kids!"  then some expletives, and then, " I ain't never been to jail!" with some more expletives.  The point was, those are things that we are supposed to be able to say...

That is not a badge of honor.  You should be able to say that you take care of your kids and that you have never been in jail.

So how does this relate to leadership in a school?  How does saying, I manage my building? I evaluate my teachers? I talk to my parents? I talk to my kids? Is that any different than what Chris Rock said?

Today I jumped in #tntechchat, or I should say was pulled in by my biggest supporter @peteleida my boss! Which is cool on another level, but that is another blog.  But @clymer_edu made me respond to his initial post of Admin supporting new and innovative ideas.


Here is my response:

I am generally against writing blogs because of a first time interaction with someone I have never interacted with on twitter before.  But I thank Justin for breaking my twig, by that I mean reaching my boiling point!  I am so tired of responding to this, but also understand why it always comes up. We as leaders stifle innovation more than any other entity, including government.  What is wrong with us, SERIOUSLY!  

I am the appointed (some are) or actually, I went through an interview process (actually about 5 of them in the same district before I was hired, no hard feelings... seriously I was not ready)  

Then I was selected leader.  Still not quite sure I am, but I will guarantee you there is no void that needs to be filled by another, just my style.  Those that know me will get that statement, it is about real respect and a tribe, not a position.  My staff punch me, laugh AT me, and often yell at me with choice words.  

But still, am I not responsible for everything?

Here was my response:

Aren't I responsible for everything? 

I ask again.  Well, let me think, haha I usually just talk, rarely listen, and have no time for thinking, although that is my twitter tag line.  Again, I am not a social media guy, I am a face to face guy. I am not a tweeter, I am a doer.  I am someone who puts out a challenge and fights like you know what to meet it.  

So being responsible for everything, I guess everything is also up to me?  I HAVE ULTIMATE POWER!!! (insert sarcasm)

Side note; I am totally tooting my own horn here , but this afternoon I had my second conference call with Amazon about ALPHA testing their new platform for free educational resources for teachers #OER #GoOpen.  ALPHA testing comes before BETA testing.  The user platform is hopefully just a few months away, and should absolutely be a game changer.  Imagine Amazon Prime with free resources for teachers and search features and tagging ability of AMAZON.  I just passed out...

Am I not now responsible to give them feedback, which is going to happen weekly to tell them how the product is working.  This is AMAZON, not the corner teacher shop.  We have a demo account that I am going to share with staff for feedback.  Are we not now responsible for helping one of the largest companies in the world work out the kinks?  There are less than 5 districts that have this access besides multiple other content providers.  Districts are not generally content providers, we are usually content consumers.  

I feel responsible for bringing access to all kids.  Amazon can help with that in this platform.  I might write later about that experience once I have played around with it.  The responsibility is to better not only my staff, but also access for all kids especially kids that struggle because of their economic status, that I care so much about.  If you doubt that read some of my previous blog posts.  

So what does this have to do with my day to day job, which is definitely not working for Amazon.  Nor do I want to do that work.  I am responsible as Justin asked to push the status quo.  How do you push the status quo?  Do you talk about it? Do you parade around like a bird that can't fly and talk and smile?  I do do that! HAHA just check my twitter feed, but that is not WHAT I do.

I am responsible for, and the reason for this blog, to push thought!  I am responsible for asking "What if..."  That is my favorite part of my job.  Today I said, "what if..." more than once.  It created a lot more work for me, but I think many of the what if's...? of today will put us in a better place tomorrow.  

Is that not the point?!?!  Ask the question, "What if..." and then solve it.  That is being passionate and a principal entrepreneur (new term, I am starting now #prinentrepreneur).  Remember though I am not a tweeter, so see that # die by tomorrow. 

LOOK NO TWEETS!!!! It is all mine, but am I doing anything or just pushing a #?  Internal struggle as I have multiple # I push, but they are local...  I join many # that are global and love them with many people that I have connected with and continue to connect with and never want to stop connecting with... So I also talk out of both sides of my mouth.  Just again my internal struggle, about what I am really responsible for....  I am responsible for going of on a tangent... Sorry.... And responsible for using (...) way to much in this blog!!! HAHA No Worries!

Ultimately I am responsible for my day job, Principal of @carrie_Downie.  That is my ultimate love, I protect it, push it, and want nothing more than to be a model for how a school should interact with all stakeholders.  I am responsible to them and the community that I serve! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lesson Planning, Road Trips, and 21st Century Learning - Perfect Match!

Why do I have a passion for making sure we can get students what they need as soon as possible and when they need it (ACCESS).  Here is article from local paper about a 13 year old in my district that I do not know, but I do know if school had reached him, this may not have happened.

Link to article 

We need to reach students where they are.  I chose Road Trips as an analogy for Lesson Planning to drive thought, make it a little fun, and hopefully push thinking for "our kids".

Road trips and Lesson plans are very similar.  This is more of a "how-to" or "guide" than story.  Lesson planning for 21st century lessons is far different than the traditional model. It is not linear nor should entry points be the same for all students.  This blog is simply a sample of some ways you can think, use video, and differentiate instruction in a digital way.  It does not necessarily address student output, which may be a future blog as there are so many ideas and avenues for that as well.

Part of my delivery of how to lesson plan, I created this Youtube Video to drive conversation and hopefully spark thoughts.  This is one way I hope to "flip" the face to face a bit.

This blog was written to drive a face to face PD session.  So I also created this infographic to allow people to see ideas and hopefully process before our meeting. The idea being that when we are face to face we share and grow.  This way some of the thinking and processing is already done.

Infographic of 21st Century Lesson Planning 

Road Trip - Need a map of where you are going.
Lesson Planning - Need a standard to drive activities or tasks.

Road Trip - Need to make sure vehicle is ready and primed for trip.
Lesson Planning - Need to make sure activities/tasks chosen meet the needs of students.  This means differentiated assignments, differentiated directions,  scaffolding, etc.  There are many ways to do this in a digital environment.  How can this be personalized with idea of place?

  • Here is example from teacher +Katherine Corey explaining the tasks and where to find resources. Tasks required of students based on standards and a book they are reading 

Road Trip - Make sure to pick up some extras, like snacks and drinks, to make the trip more enjoyable.
Lesson Planning -  Application of technology based on where you are going and how it is meaningful and when it makes sense to the eventual product.  To help with the development of this and to "flip" this part in your classroom, make a screencast. How can this be personalized with idea of time?  

Road Trip - Music and the experience of the trip.  Live every moment, love the trip, but this is the longest part, but necessary to get to destination.
Lesson Planning - Here you are allowing students to work, what are the tasks?  How do you want them to show you mastery?  This could be independent, collaborative, etc.  How can this be personalized with the idea of path?  

  • Here teacher +Roselynn Burke allows students choice on digital platform to solve a problem in practice and check their answer with instruction. 

Road Trip - Car maintenance and map checking are so important on any road trip.  You need to make sure you can stop and adjust if needed. 
Lesson Planning - In any lesson plan, problems will come up, and more direction and or pre-emptive explanation based on previous knowledge or "real time data" will create a need for intervention.  
  • Here teacher +Laura Bossert is explicit in the use of measurement tools for students that don't have the context or understanding to use them. 

Road Trip - Taking breaks and celebrating a successful trip are so important when you reach your destination.  
Lesson Planning - This is where we share, we pause, we refocus, and celebrate learning.  This should be regular in occurrence as students need this for so many reasons, including motivation, confidence, and refocusing.  
  • Here +Victoria Bennett shows how the students in her room take a brain boost to transition and get ready for the next activity. 

I don't want to imply that videos are the only ways to deliver instruction, or necessarily always the best method, but there are times and places for them.  I think the examples above are great ways to use video to drive instruction.  A 21st century lesson platform will require video, and as I previously stated "access" for learners is dependent on a digital platform.  How do we improve on what we have done?  How do we create life long motivated learners?  I think we show them that learning can occur anywhere at any time.  Recognize that life is not lived in segments, or stop and go, it is all encompassing, your lessons should be as well!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Trust is more important than Mindset, Vision, Innovation, Etc.

Trust is a silly small word, that is not often used in education.  As an administrator I give a lot of trust to all my staff every day.  They are single entities within their own classroom and no matter how many miles I tally in a day, I can not be everywhere at once.

The term is used, "In God We Trust" on my $20 dollar bill.  So if a word is worthy of making the $20, is it not important enough to talk about in life/education?  Do you trust me to make the best decisions as I know?  Do you trust me to have your back when times are bad?  Do you trust me to support you when things don't work?  Do you trust me to know that I think you come to work every day to make a difference?

So in everything in life our experiences shape who we are.  The next 4 paragraphs give context as to why TRUST is so important to me and then back to why it matters in my work.

For me, the idea of trust started a long time ago, way before I got in education.  That word in itself, has so much meaning to me, and I protect it.  My parents got divorced when I was 4 years old.  I lived in a split household, both of them loving, but split, with neither side ever wanting to talk to each other.  It was not a "happy" split for reasons that are not important here.  It was me and my older brother who has down syndrome.  I trusted him with all my thoughts, he was the ultimate listener and brother.  I talked, and talked, and talked.  He listened...

Then I got older and my mom started telling me things, and my dad told me things, and then other people told me things about being a kid with divorced parents.  I learned that all sorts of people have ideas and opinions and they wanted to share them with me.  They wanted to influence me and try to help.  

Then I made repeated horrible mistakes, I started sharing inner thoughts and ideas with others.  Nothing outlandish or criminal, but stuff that if repeated to a broader audience would definitely make me feel a certain way.  Then it happened, over and over.... I was a talker, trained by my brother, but others did not just listen, they repeated...  I got mad and reacted, not maturely and regretfully bad decisions were made and bad things happened.

I realized that although I am a talker (working on this) I also am able to be trusted with others thoughts about their ideas.  Why is this important in education?  Why is trust in people being open with ideas the single most important quality of a leader?

If people don't feel they can share openly with their ideas, and not feel as if they are squashed or diminished before they ever try, then relationships will never be formed, and innovation will never happen.  The most important thing you can do as a leader is trust your staff.  With trust comes the ability to challenge them, give feedback, laugh, and everything in between.  TRUST ME, your teachers do want to do the best they can, they need guidance, vision, help, support, feedback, etc. But they come to work to make a difference, trust that!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Girls On The Run Reflection

As a participant and nothing more, I was blown away by the scene at the River Front in Delaware today.  +GirlsontheRunDE hosted their 10th anniversary birthday with their annual 5K.  It was a celebration of girls and their perseverance, drive, and dedication to being awesome!  There really is so much more to the program than I could possible post in this blog, but here is my short reflection.

These girls and their "buddies," which were primarily a parent, showed me the power of community in our TEC# vision.  We had so much fun, from dancing pre-race, to the bus ride, run itself, and then the finish line.  The finish line is significant as we waited for every one of "our girls" to finish.  They did not finish first, but they continued to move forward, to grow and push themselves.  That is the message. Growth, friendship, comradery, and knowing you are a part of something bigger than yourself.

I am still smiling 12 hours later of what "our girls" did and the growth I saw.  Watching students and in this case 14 of "our girls" grow, is the ultimate payoff of being an educator.  The eye stickers, medals, cheering, and post race snacks are one thing, but the "feeling" of accomplishment is what I saw.  Confidence was built, love was shared, and 14 girls saw what the power of community can do when there is a focus and commitment to a cause.

Thank you @carrie_downie girls for representing and finishing this journey.  I started this blog to understand my own journey.  Today you helped me realize sometimes our journey does have finish lines.  We should celebrate those moments, cherish them, and build off that positive energy.  I am ready to go to work, like right now! To make sure this momentum continues.

Thank you to "Our Girls" first and parents! But also thank you to  @rosy_burke @MsCousinsin2nd and @cdroom103  for your dedication over the last 8 weeks to make this happen!  I would also not do this justice without thanking @UDSigmaKappa with leadership from @amanda__toto and @meliss_tavares to make sure "our girls" had a large cheering section for each of their finishes of this journey!  Great stuff all around and so #proud to be a #cddolphins today!

Friday, November 13, 2015

So Many Questions, and Yet So Many Success!

What happens when students come to you as a trusted individual?

What happens when students come to for advice?

What happens when students come to cry about their problems?

What happens if you are that person that students come to for all the answers?

This is what happens when you become an educator.  Except it, embrace it, and live it.  Tell your message, don't hide, there are way too many out there saying, "those that do, don't teach."  Let's turn that tide to "those that do, teach."  It is simple for us, we have the most important job in the world.

This is major pressure, and we don't know if we are ready for it on a regular basis?  We don't feel qualified, we question ourselves constantly.  We don't feel worthy.  Who gave us this power?  We are just teachers and admins, it is just a job... Right?  We have degrees, but we are really responsible for teaching your child how to read, write, do math, and think?  That is some serious responsibility about our most prized commodity, "our kids".  We except that challenge...  with enthusiasm and commitment.  We do it, because with passion we care. We except those questions and yet we succeed.

We did so much this week, here are a few examples of what we were involved with, and how we showed that commitment.  This is only a sampling, we are influencing people, and by that I mean young minds to think and be true citizens in our society.

We rocked a board meeting presentation with +Katherine Corey +Christiana J McLean +Robin Detoro-Cebenka  and a father that set a tone for the whole district as a model of how a school operates.

We realize that our job is so much more than reading, writing, math, etc.

We realized this week that our job is not just a job.  We #cddolphins, knew this, but we were reminded again.  We were asked to be judge, jury, and final say on some things very important.  We decided who should be in a group, who should share, who needed a hug.  But guess what, it worked out, we made our decisions based on what was important.  We made those decisions based on our love for "our kids."  We gave them extra attention, trusted them to be on their own, and struggled with the feeling that many did not get the concepts that we wanted them to understand.  We lost sleep over this and discussed this to determine how to reach them.  We did this because we are committed to being there every day to try again. We never give up and we are thankful for that passion and commitment.

We saw a program called Girls on the Run take off and flourish with head coach +Roselynn Burke  and assistants +Elyse Marsh and +Dawn Cousins twice a week inspiring girls to be better individuals. By that we mean character development, they taught us everything from what it meant to be a good friend to how to deal with difficult people.  This was taught to us in the hallway on the way to breakfast, lunch, or whenever they saw us!  Then the celebrations, from banana cheer, to a game of sharks and minnows to public service projects, these girls became a team and a tribe.  We heard repeatedly from them (students) and their parents that this was the best club, or we call tribe (Seth Godin) they have ever been a part of.

Then we heard victories this week from teachers based on a student just making it through a day, to lesson/units being created for class, and district sharing.  There was a great field trip in first grade, we presented at a board meeting, multiple parents came to our GOTR pasta dinner.  We discovered so many successes in one day as we visited every homeroom class (Tuesday).  How do we not enjoy this discovery and learning together?  We answer the initial questions by sharing and telling you this is how we #cddolphins do it.

Celebrate successes together, this was just this past week.  Feel the pain of struggle together and share success, we had plenty of that, that is how we grow!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The #cddolpins presented our school at the Colonial School District board meeting.  There were not many in the crowd and I actually had to ask for applause at the end, which is kind of funny in its own right.  But it is a board meeting not a rock concert.  Although if board meetings were set up like rock concerts you may have to charge for admission, that might be a later blog post!

The board meeting was another exercise in our school community coming together and sharing "Our Vision" and "Our Mission" as a school.  Our audience was the School Board, but the exercise in itself was so much more important.  The slides and words were shared with staff two weeks in advance and feedback was welcomed from all.  There was not a lot of feedback, but hopefully most people read the words of the presentation or watched the accompanying videos.

We have achieved so much in such a short period of time and could not be any more excited and humbled to be the principal of such a great school.  When knowing a script had to be generated for the meeting, I took on this job, as it is my responsibility, but I feel any #cddolphins could have written words that would have encompassed our passion for education, community, and Our Kids.  The presentation was a team effort, even a great father helped with one of the slides.

I hope that those that heard our words and were present at the meeting left with the feeling of Awe. We are a group of very different people (Bad News Bears  maybe...) that still have a focused idea of what we want our school to represent.  I think after tonight, there is no question what we want to represent.  

Many people this year have asked me, "How do you build a school community?"  I personally don't know the answer to that question.  I know the steps that we have taken, but don't know if that would work for everyone.  We are unique, as every school has their own DNA. 

Many would say, "keep it all about the kids."  To me that is too vague and at this point should be implied.  "What's best for kids," is certainly an important ideal, but the definition can vary so greatly from thinking strict rules are important, to a more progressive approach.  In each staff member's head, "what's best for kids" is different.  So I don't like that saying.  Besides kids are so unique in their needs that you are constantly playing a game of darts.

I like to pick ideals or words to concentrate on.  We agreed on TEC# as our brand based on lots of conversation. The acronym was developed by one of our staff members Stuart Wilkie, who has a crazy creative side to him.  Technology, Empowerment, Community, #cddolphins. 
Those are tangible things that have definite definitions.  If done properly would definitely benefit all OUR KIDS.  

Our vision about being 21st century risk takers, which is a little longer, encompasses what we strive for every day.  As the principal, I get absolutely jazzed up to be able to walk around and take pictures and enjoy in the learning of OUR KIDS.  The only better job than mine is to be a teacher, where you get to see all the "aha" moments and laugh with OUR KIDS all day long. 

Here is the TEC# video combined from the board meeting

So if you want a playbook (for schools) here it is:

Tangible Action Steps for teachers to connect:
  1. Love your kids/students! I mean like you think about them and worry about them 24/7. Like you wonder if they went to dad's or mom's over the weekend to be prepared on Monday kind of thinking... You got me on that one? If not talk to your kids and parents!  
  2. Notice things about your kids/students, like being tired, angry, upset, etc. and react immediately with some physical contact and with a "I notice" comment.  Not "I like comment."
Tangible Action Steps for teachers to plan:
  1. Walk around thinking, "how could I incorporate that 'real world' experience in my lesson plan?"
  2. Think where you want them to get to and how can you challenge them in thinking to get there.  I know this sounds overly reflective, but what is standard? and how can you challenge their level of thinking to show mastery? 
  3. Model risk taking.
  4. Highs and Lows are expected when you have passion, OWN IT! and then figure out how to recover quickly.
  5. Laugh, Laugh, Laugh!
Tangible Action Steps for Principals:

  1. Model risk taking, own your mistakes and apologize for them. 
  2. Force yourself in rooms of teachers that are trying things for the first time.
  3. Promote your vision/brand constantly, NEVER deviate from that! Don't switch course 6 months in.
  4. Laugh, Laugh, Laugh!
  5. Highs and Lows are expected when you have passion, OWN IT! and then figure out how to recover quickly.
  6. Be there for THEM and that means your kids you think about constantly, but also your staff you think about constantly.
  7. Be available, Text, Voxer, Twitter, Google Hangout, Google+, Email, mailbox notes, drop-ins, phone calls, etc.  You get the idea. 
  8. When you sign on to be a principal you sign on to being responsible for a second family.  Embrace it.  I love my second family, they have issues at times! HAHA, but we all do, we are family.  We fight, hate each other at times, and all that, but try to create that comfort zone.  Hopefully, even mistakes and bad decisions can be resolved.  You need a, "nothing we can't get past mentality."
This blog got away from me, but I don't care, because the #cddolphins are the only ones that will hopefully understand my random thoughts and therefore the only ones within our our school DNA that matter.  Not changing the world, but our model will show you how you could!  Just saying....


Friday, November 6, 2015

Is it just a parking spot or a strong message?

I dropped my children off at school today.  Something that I do not regularly do as I generally go to work really early. I relish in being able to do it from time to time.  I noticed something this morning that I have not noticed before.  It really bothered me, like got red in the face, the vein in my neck popped out, I started turning green like the HULK.  It is right here:

It was right up front and clearly marked.  I thought, "What is that?" or more like, "What the ?!@#?#! is that?"  I realize it is a parking spot, but it is also a message.  Not just PRINCIPAL, not just RESERVED, NO it says, PRINCIPAL ONLY.  Now I do refer to myself as a Principal, and I think all the talk about lead learner, servant leader, blah blah blah is silly.  

I do have a problem with parking spots dedicated to PRINCIPAL ONLY right up front.  Below are my initial perceptions about the Principal. I saw this and immediately wanted to spray paint it all black to block it, out of shame, for our profession.  For the record, I am not degrading or want to imply this Principal is a bad person, just the message a parking spot displays.  Here is what this parking spot tells me about the hypothetical person who parks here:  

1. I am better than you.
2. I am more important than you.
3. I am privileged.
4. I work harder than you.
5. I may not look you in the eye when you talk to me.
6. I may not have time for you to discuss your concerns, because I am THAT important.

There were so many more thoughts that popped in my head.  I stopped there a good 30 seconds to take this picture and my children wondered why I was taking pictures of the ground.  My son said, "That is where the Principal parks."  I said, "yes," it is clearly marked!  At this moment I realized my anger was a little silly/displaced towards an individual and more an idea of who we are. 

As I write this though, my anger is back!  What is wrong with a parking lot symbol...? So many things.  I would never park there, NEVER, as Outkast sang, "Neva Eva, Neva Neva Eva.," although I will let you in on a secret to build some context. 

When I got my first admin job, which I will describe in a minute, I really thought I would be able to do things like eat lunch sitting down in my office.  Run out to the store if I needed something, and shut my door to work on things.  Had I not made it?  I was the man, I was an admin, leave me alone, right?

That was quickly erased on my first day which was more like the song "bombtrack" from Rage Against the Machine than "Don't Worry Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin.  

I became assistant principal for the first time in 2005, the day after Thanksgiving break, with not one day of transition.  I literally found out a week in advance and then, there I was.  I had spent the previous 2 months as a student advisor in a middle school, but that was it.  The school at the time had a "difficult" reputation, although now, in my opinion, is one of the greatest middle schools in Delaware.  A lot of sweat and love were applied with a new Principal +Holly Sage in 2009 (I remained assistant) that created this great environment of students and staff. 

(side note) For the record, I have only eaten lunch sitting down 11 times in 11 years, Teacher Appreciation Day. Ask anyone that has done lunch duty with me in the last 11 years, they will back me up.  I eat or don't eat, but done with the kids, standing up.

Back to the story, I was somewhat in charge, not the principal, but close enough.  I thought people would respect me because of the name on my door.  That was diminished November 29th, 2004, the day "bombtrack" played out.  

Those teachers, who I love, did not care it was my first day.  They wanted help, action, a strong person to guide them.  I was none of those at that moment.  It was #eastcoastlove and they told me to "MAN UP", I joined them, talked to them, became a trusted advisor and support person.  It took a while though, it was not an immediate transition.  I struggled for a while, and it was hard.  

"WE" worked together to improve and get that hallway and classrooms the way we wanted them.  It was absolutely AWESOME at the moment. It did not happen because of a parking spot.  It happened because we worked together and we fought for each other, knowing I had their back!  That is super important.   

The point is, I realized that working in schools, whether it be a teacher, secretary, nurse, counselor, or admin is not about status or "making it."  It is not about saying, "I am more powerful than you", or "I make the decisions around here."  It is not about saying things are all great because they are not.  We are there to help and assist hundreds if not thousands of kids.  

Now I am at Carrie Downie, I bring those lessons I learned.  I am smarter, I have experiences, many more than most, I am blessed.  I am NOT Principal Only!  I want to be with you, I want to feel your pain, I want to empathize, I want to work through it with you.  My drive is your struggle, the struggle of staff and finding success with "our kids."  No one should be PRINCIPAL ONLY, we are in this together, we celebrate and cry together.  

This post though is not about our kids. They are super important and the reason why we do what we do, but this post is about our staff.  Our staff need to know that we ride with them, we fight with them, we cry with them, we support them, we backchannel with them, we text them, we laugh with them, we do all that and more.  I ran into a teaching partner today at WAWA, when I taught 5th grade, yes I taught a REAL class at one point.  He only remembers me as a teaching partner.  There was no fake respect, it went right to "what's up dude?"  It was natural, and REAL.  

Putting a ?!@#?#! parking lot sign up that says PRINCIPAL ONLY tells everyone you are not REAL.  Don't do it, sit at tables with staff at PD, teach their classes, bend over when talking to kids, eat lunch standing up or with kids, laugh a bit, apologize when needed, BE REAL.  Don't hide behind a parking lot spot and expect respect.  I am ?!@#?#! angry again. Don't be that Principal.  If you are call me (302) 323 - 2926.  That is a real number and I will talk to you about how you can change.  

Challenge me, my staff at Carrie Downie does this all the time, because I truly want them to feel like they have equal say.  I do still make final decisions.  I am not a servant leader, as I feel decision making is important, to drive vision and mission of a school, but I also want all to feel they have a voice.  Don't be a PRINCIPAL ONLY. Be real, be who you were when you got into this.  Don't expect respect, earn it, model it, talk to your staff, and don't put up symbols like parking spots that separate you.