But he could not rest. For there was another thing bigger than the tiredness – and this was the strong true purpose.

In the novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,”  Dr. Copeland suffered from the same malady as I did over the past six months.  “He would think of this purpose until sometimes, after a long day and night of work, he would become blank so that he would forget just for a minute what the purpose was. And then it would come to him again and he would be restless and eager to take on a new task. (pgs.38-39).”

I neglected my blog for six months and was ready to pull the plug. But, as the old year drew to a close and the new year begins, my purpose is becoming clear again. To help transform a school from failing to thriving in three years.

Lessons of Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Year 1 – Turning our School Around in 3 years.

In reflecting on the past school year, it was hard to capture the roller coaster of emotions, challenges, losses, and successes. So here is our year…..

  •  Musical Lyrics from some of the top songs of the band Blood, Sweat and Tears could capture the emotions of the year. 

Spinning Wheels – “What Goes Up Must Come Down”

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy – “I chose you for the one, now we’re having so much fun!”

I Can’t Quit Her – “She’s got a hold on me”

God Bless the Child – “God bless the child who can,

                                          Stand up and say ‘I got my own’

                                          Ev’ry child’s got to have his own”

  • World leaders can capture the essence of our year.

“It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today, we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.”                                        Barack Obama

“I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many, months of struggle and suffering.”                Winston Churchill.

 

Pondering Poverty

Over the past few weeks, our school has engaged in conversations regarding poverty. We were asked to do an exercise in which we, the staff, listed and then shared our own experiences in school that we felt were similar and different to our students.  We then read an article from Eric Jensen, “How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement.” The article discussed seven differences between low-income students and middle-class students that affect classroom engagement: health & nutrition, vocabulary, effort, hope & growth mind-set, cognition, relationships, and distress. After I read the article, the 3 things I listed as similarities paled in comparison,

So… I decided to meet with my lunch bunch students over a pot of taco soup and see what their perceptions were. As always, the honesty of this group was amazing. Here’s what they said.

Commonalities:

  • You had to wear uniforms just like we do
  • You attended ghetto schools like we do – when prompted for what ghetto schools look and sound like – “kids are ratchet when visitors are in the classroom”
  • You were yelled at by the teachers and so are we
  • You had racism and so do we

Differences:

  • You didn’t have phones
  • Our teachers don’t teach us the right stuff, yours did
  • We are held back, taught different – other schools (in the district) teach up, we are taught down to
  • All of your teachers were strict, but only a few of ours
  • Your teachers wanted you at school, our teachers really don’t want us here
  • Your teachers didn’t lie

As I ponder both the conversations with my colleagues and this group of students, I again realize how very important it is for the adults in our building to build relationships with our students. Jensen suggests taking the time to connect and get to know your students. We would do well to heed his advice.

The Best Opportunity

As our school approaches the halfway point of the school year, I am thinking a lot about the amazing opportunity our school community has been given. In Cathy Caprino’s, “The Most Common Reason People Fail to Pursue the Best Opportunity in Front of Them,” she provides some guiding questions when considering opportunities and hard choices.

  1. Who are the people I’ll be working with most closely – do I respect, admire and enjoy them, and will they teach me great things I’m excited to learn?
  2. What are the core values, traits and behaviors of the senior leadership – will it be easy for me to support them?
  3. What is the potential growth opportunity for me – will I learn new skills, make exciting new connections, learn to lead, manage and grow a business or endeavor in a powerful and rewarding way?
  4. Will this new organization and its leadership respect me and my values – are we aligned?
  5. Do I care about the outcomes this organization is working toward in the world?
  6. Will I have the flexibility in this role to focus on and support the other top priorities in my life?
  7. Three years down the line, will this opportunity most likely give me the chance to become the professional and the leader I long to be?

As I answered each of these questions with a resounding yes, I realized that “we” the staff have been provided an amazing opportunity and we can not and will not allow this school to fail.

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2015/01/10/the-most-common-reason-people-fail-to-pursue-the-best-opportunity-in-front-of-them/3/

 

 

 

 

 

Is it as simple as soup?

“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”
Auguste Escoffier

It started so simply, the smell of  leftover soup heating in the microwave. As the group of girls walked by, they asked what smelled so good. I showed them my soup ,taco to be specific, and they were entranced. So was I, because this was the group of girls that had disliked me from day one. The ones that couldn’t resist a snide remark as I walked into a classroom or tried with all  their might to upset my teaching. Could soup be the answer? I invited them to grab their lunches and join me. This started a monthly lunch date in which I bring the soup and the girls bring the conversation. Our small group is slowly growing into a larger one, and last month they even invited a boy to join us.

What have I learned from these soup lunches?

  • Soup can put the heart at ease. – Kids do want to have relationships with teachers but can be distrustful at first. I have to look for those opportunities and seize them.
  • Soup does calm the violence of hunger. – In my case, the hunger was: who is this woman and why is she coming in and upsetting our world?
  • Soup helps eliminate the tensions of the day. – I have had the opportunity to talk with them and help problem solve what is going well and what their frustrations are in their classes.
  • Soup awakens and refines the appetite. – Cooked spinach is definitely a no-no in soups for this group! Sometimes my colleague, a vegetarian, joins us and the group has tons of questions about his exotic lunches.

It’s turning out that yes, it can be as simple as soup!

Out of the mouths of babes

I was privileged to have one of the best conversations of my life with a small group of 8th graders. The task was to get their input on the creation of a new mission statement for our school. The kids decided to focus on:

(name of our school) – The school we want it to be:

Here are the responses:

  • More academics that we can understand & connect to – Not doing the work to just do it, we’re really not understanding it. More hands-on work.
  • More opportunities with the “Arts” – piano, drums, pottery
  • More opportunities to use technology – we don’t get to type anything, we want to learn how to use Power Point & Microsoft Word
  • Trust, believe and care about us- get to know us, really get to know us, make connections with kids, teachers, the whole school, each other, get involved
  • Communicate – weekly progress reports to show where we are at

I am in awe of the honesty and deep-thinking. As we work on the mission statement, I am committed to making sure these voices are heard.