Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wk4 Leadership Blog Post

I new inspiration has come into my life a little less than a year ago.
Last year, during second week of summer school, we had a complete administration change.  I knew who the principal was going to be, as our local school council had selected him, but I did not know who he was bringing in as the assistant principal.
I was introduced to her first thing on their first day.  Her name was Karren Ray and she had come from a position at the Central Office of Chicago Public Schools.  I will admit when I heard this I was a bit worried.  Central Office is all about implying the strict rules and regulations that CPS has set forth, but our school environment is so unique and never really "fits" those specific guidelines.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Mrs. Ray has been the biggest blessing for an administrator and person to come into our school.  Her way of leading is something that cannot be explained, and is something I hope to be one day.
Being both a former special education teacher and part of Central Office has given her insight of both worlds.  She is always full of energy and knows just how to talk to people.  She has made it a point to form special relationships with each of her staff.  She is not just your boss, but a "mom" as well.  She always asks about how you are and about the things going on your life.  She will be the first person to tell you "thank-you" and compliment the work that has been done.  She gives productive feedback and is always eager to learn herself more about things we know.
Being from Central Office, she is the "Data Queen."  Any situation that happens in our environment or related to our school, good or bad, she probably has a spreadsheet for, accompanied by a graph.  She knows how to track any situation and is always ready to "fight" for her staff and school.  She complies information supporting our school's vision and learning objectives and always shares them with us and our community.
She is beyond FANTASTIC and I can only hope to be like her when my administration days come.  She is a true leader and her openness and heart has gained the respect of an entire staff in just moments.

Mrs. Ray and her fellow Polar Plungers representing Northside Learning Center- Even new to our school, she beat all of her staff in her fundraising efforts!

Wk4 Comment - Rosa Santana

My Comment:
Kristen_McKernin said...

I am so glad to hear that you found those "aha" moments while reading this book as well. I decided to keep a document of my favorite quotes so that I could reference them from this point forward.
That push to make you suggest an improvement at your workplace, I think, is the exact reason Joe chose this book to be a part of our class. It is ALL of our times to make that "next" step in our lives and do things even greater than we have done up til this point.
Good luck- you will be great and do amazing things!

In Response To:

26 May 2012

Week 4 Reading: Art of Possibility Pt3

image by Framework Movie Pics

Remove yourself from the possibility of becoming a victim of your situations. Step back and look at the framework and the end result desired; then search for possibilities that may will cause positive results. Look at the WE in the situation and the problem will become part of all and not just for the benefit of one.

These last few chapters has definitely had me thinking about A LOT of things that has been occurring within my work life. This has provided me with the way I have been thinking about for a while. The possibility to change the environment and the mindset of others. Sometimes we forget the bigger picture of why WE do what WE do. The attention is transferred from the people behind the goal desiring.

These last few chapters have provided me with the plan to move forward within my position and possible creating a team within the department. I have evaluated the downward framework the department is currently spiraling to and suggest a possible change. The framework reminds me of a plan I used once before and have forgotten to use again. It's the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) plan.  
image by TaiShing
Specific: Be specific about the goal wanting to achieve. Ask yourself the six W questions. (Who, What, Where, When, Which, Why).
Measurable: Form a solid criteria to measure your progress.
Achievable: Identify goals that can be reached
Realistic: Be real about the goals desiring. Goals can be high and realistic. Don't over do it and then end up not doing anything at all.
Timely: Have a timeframe for the goal and stay on track of that timeframe created.
This plan helped kept the result in the forefront and not all the messy stuff in between that clouds the goal. I know it's not completely similar but it did remind me of it. I know I have set many goals for myself and sometimes not all goals are met. The framework provides the possibility to start climbing up instead of down. Using the framework in combination with the WE, you are bound to remove yourself from becoming a victim of your situations.

Art of Possibilities is a book I will reference to again and again. Reading this book has provided me with clarity in situations within my work and personal life. The "aha" moments I received has created a new person with new visions and new possibilities. 

Wk4 Comment - Katherine Olivar

My Comment:

I am so glad that you got to explain your reasoning behind to your mother to teach English. Can you imagine what your life would be now if you had followed your mom's dream instead of your own? I have plenty of friends that took this route, and they are not happy, maybe well off, but not happy.
It is great that you can still say that you wouldn't have made a different choice after eleven years of teaching. You are happy, and you have managed to make due with that little salary at a private school.
Keep on living your dream!

In Response To:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Week 4 Reading: Art of Possibility 9 - 12

As I pondered this week's reading, I am caught up on the last guide question: Now what do we do?
Original Drawing
My personal answer to that is to re-animate our child-like spirit. My action research project focused on implementing more web 2.0 tools in regular classroom teaching. However, my ultimate goal (my goal I give to myself every time I set forth to teach) is to provide the opportunity for all to always have what Einstein had said - that "sense of wonder" and awe for the universe around them. Like a child seeing something new, we all need to appreciate and find a love for learning about everything around us. It may seem very sci-fi -ish, but look beyond what we know about the universe and seek dimensions unknown. With this mindset, I carry it over to my teaching. How can I continue my discovery while teaching students to maintain that curiosity? How can I exemplify to the teachers I instruct on how to be a child without acting like one? These are questions I ask myself every time I think of a lesson plan, every time I stand up in front of my students (children and adults alike), every time I prepare my content. 
During my freshman year of college I told my mom that I was going to go ahead and get my degree in English. She frowned a little and continued with what she was doing trying not to show her disapproval. "Why? What can you do with an English degree?" she asked.
"I am going to be a teacher." I replied. She probably died a little on the inside. She wanted me to have a career where I would be taken care of, financially. Instead, I chose a career with long hours and extremely little pay (especially, since I knew I wanted to teach in a private school). She supported my decision to the best of her knowledge, saying I would make a wonderful teacher because of the influence I have with children - and people in general.
I tried to plead my case to let her know that this vocation is truly my calling.
Kids listen to me when I talk. Everywhere I go, even kids I don't even know, come up to me to smile and wave. I don't know why...but they do. If I can influence a child to make good choices in life, then I think that's what I am supposed to do. And, I like doing it. It's a personal challenge that makes me feel stronger and more alive. I love the lightbulb that turns on when a child finally understands. I love that moment when a former student returns to say, "You were the teacher that brought me Shakespeare." 

Original Drawing
Now look at me, I am an English-degreed teacher (certified to teach middle to high school English) teaching primary through middle school students as well as the faculty and staff at the school, basic technology skills hoping to get a degree in the field that I teach. After eleven years of teaching, I often think about what I would tell my mom when she cautiously asks if I ever want to change my career. My answers seems to always be the same: I love to teach. It doesn't matter who I teach or what I have to teach. I just want to teach.

Wk4 Blog Post - Art of Possibility (8-12)

I have officially finished this book and it has been an amazing experience!  I have officially highlighted all the key points I found in this book, wrote personal notes, and sent off the two copies to two special recipients this morning.  I cannot wait to hear what they have to say when they receive this special little package and complete reading it.

These are the key things I found this week:

"Certain things in life are better done in person."  (123)

"Enrollment is the art and practice of generating a spark of possibility for others to share."  (125)

"... enrollment is about giving yourself a possibility to others and being ready, in turn, to catch their spark.  It is about playing together as partners in a field of light."  (126)

"The life force for humankind is, perhaps, nothing more or less than the passionate energy to connect, express, and communicate.  Enrollment is that life force at work, light sparks from person to person scattering light in all directions.  Sometimes the sparks ignite a blaze; sometimes they pass quietly, magically, almost imperceptibly, from one to another to another."  (139)

"You move the problematic aspect of any circumstance from the outside world inside the boundaries of yourself.  With this act you can transform the world."  (141)

"I lose my power.  I lose my ability to steer the situation in another direction, to learn from it, or to put us in a good relationship with each other.  Indeed, I lose any leverage I may have had, because there is nothing I can do about your mistakes- only about mine."  (142)

"... declare: 'I am the framework for everything that happens in my life.'"  (142)

"'If I cannot be present without resistance to the way things are and act effectively, if I feel myself to be wronged, a loser, or a victim, I will tell myself that some assumption I have made is the source of my difficulty.'"  (143)

"Grace comes from owning the risks we take in a world by and large immune to our control."  (142)

"Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again."  (143)

"In the fault game your attention is focused on actions- what was done or not done by you or others.  When you name yourself as the board your attention turns to repairing a breakdown in relationship..  That is why apologies come so easily."  (149)

"...we create the conditions for the emergence of anything that is missing.  We are living in the land of our dreams."  (163)

"In the realm of possibility, there is no division between ideas and action, mind and body, dream and reality."  (164)

"A vision is a powerful framework to take the operations of an organization of any size from the downward spiral into the arena of possibility."  (168)

"As a teacher I have enormous opportunity to create possibility in every conversation."  (175)

"... think in terms of the contexts that govern us rather than the evidence we see before our eyes."  (178)

"The WE appears when, for the moment, we set aside the story of fear, competition, and struggle, and tell its story."  (183)

"We need never name a human being as the enemy."  (190)

I am really glad that I chose to pick apart this book by quotes.  Now I have a compilation of reminders to keep myself on the right track to success.  This book can be a reference to all aspects of life: work, home, relationships, personal struggles, etc.  I believe that I am headed in the right direction to fulfill many aspirations I have in life.  I have felt great after every reading session and it has usually been followed by a run that is more clear and peaceful than normal.
I would have never expected a book like this to be part of this program and I cannot thank Joe enough for fitting it into his class.
Thank you very much!

Photo by  mollybob via flickr

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wk4 Wimba


This week I missed Wimba because I took part in the Chicago Teacher's Union Rally in downtown Chicago.  It was one of the most unique experience I have ever taken part in.  Nearly 10,000 people were in attendance to fight issues on pay increases, class size, job security and curriculum quality before a proposed strike at the beginning of next year.  Our district is moving to a "full school day," adding hours to both the elementary and high school day without reimbursement as well as moving to a "merit-based pay" system.  

The experience went perfectly with the readings and the the thinking behind possibility.  

I turned our bus sign into a "Rally Sign"

As much as I enjoyed the experience I was really sad to have missed last nights Wimba after watching the archive.  I have officially become obsessed with this book and would have loved to take part in dissecting and collaborating thoughts on it.  As I have mentioned before, I purchased two print copies of this book to pass on.  I spent my lunch break today highlighting the key quotes I have chosen from each of the readings to add a little of "me" in each gift.  

The two biggest takeaways I have found from this book is the concept of "giving an A" and "Rule Number 6."  I have passed on some of these ideas to my administration and they too are interested in reading this book.  I personally think that if all of the staff at my school were to read this book the morale would be INCREDIBLE.  I know that this book has opened a part in me that needed to be opened and my outlook is much different and I need it.  I found out last week that instead of working 3.5 hours Monday through Thursday for 6 weeks and having the entire month of August off, I will be working Monday through Friday, full days, the ENTIRE summer.  The break that I thought I would have post-grad school is now a WHOLE lot different.  But I am not saying "why me" but looking at it as an opportunity for me to grow.  

I really liked the entire layout of this class.  I thoroughly appreciate that Joe has continued to give us light on what is to come in month 12.  This is the first time this has happened along the way and it is an excellent way for all of us to get prepared for our final month. 

Thank you Joe for a fantastic and enlightening month.  I was initially overwhelmed by all of the assignments, but they all fit perfectly and were so meaningful, that I had no problem completing them.  Thank you for introducing me to this book and opening my mind to all of the things that are to come!

See you in 35 days!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wk3 Comment - Cyndee Taresh

My Comment:

I have to agree with you. This book is incredibly well written and very much an easy read. I have enjoyed these reading assignments and actually purchased this book for a couple of my friends. It is great to know that you are a glass 1/2 full kind of person. I find myself going back and forth, but this book has reminded me yet again to keep that glass full.
Good luck, only 39 days until the big day!

In Response To:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wk 3 Reading: Keeping it at least half full.......

Twenty years and three months of excitement, stress, learning, teaching, supporting, and leading was summed up in this week’s reading.  My career in the military could be described by the philosophy in chapters 5-8 of our text book, The Art of Possibility; Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.  I say this because, all throughout the reading I kept picturing different times in my career that events unfolded like the story in the book, or training I conducted or received spoke the same message. 
Our Army is strong because of the decision making power given to every Soldier at all levels.  Military units around the world are in awe of the power given to our enlisted personnel since their military only gives that type of power to its officers. 
Some of the other countries now model their leadership courses and training after ours due to the effectiveness they see in the way we do things as an institution.  Our group efforts (collaboration) are proven successful over and over again regardless of the variance of mission type, location, or duration.  We do what we do well and we know it.   The power of positive thinking, strong team building, and self-confidence exercises increases our effectiveness exponentially. 
Everything in life can be boiled down to one word, PERSPECTIVE.  What you think controls your actions.  It is simple.  Think active; be active.  Think positive; be positive. 
I have always been a glass ½ full kind of person.  I believe it is part of my nature, not nurture, because many of the people in my family are negative thinkers.  I try to see the silver lining in every situation, even in the loss of loved ones.  Maybe, this mentality comes from being brought up in the church and knowing that no matter what, I have a hope for something beyond this world.  God loves me and I know it (after all he blessed me with incredible children)! 
Once again, I recommend this book.  It is well written, giving real-world story examples of the philosophies it talks about implementing.  
My Glass is Always 1/2 full!  The ice-cubes aren't obstacles, they make the drink sweeter (especially sweet tea)!

Wk3 Comment - David Mouri

My Comment:

I found it very interesting that you related this weeks reading to the lives of your students. I have found much insight from this book but have not even related it to my students' learning until just now. The art of possibility is HUGE for our students. Even the lightest improvement in independent skills is a major success. I too have had to convince parents to let their students participate in "chores" around the house. They often say that they are too hard for their child, and I always reply, "then have them help." Parents find out that if they do work on a task, their child is capable. It becomes our job to teach them prompting and when to make that prompt less restrictive.
Good luck to you!

In Response To:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

MAC Wk 3 Reading Art of Possibility Chapters 5-8

Making a difference in a persons life is a responsibility, and as an educator I take that seriously. Teaching students in special education who have cognitive disabilities makes "making a difference" in their lives the focal point of what I do. Knowing that one day these high school students will become young adults, and will be faced with a world of possibilities, but they will just have to be prepared to work harder to enjoy them.
Some parents would love for us to "fix" their child, but we know that is not possible. I try to teach basic functional life skills to my students to allow them more independence at home, and where ever they may be in their future. They can learn this skills now and practice them at home with the supervision of their parents. There are times when parents have to be persuaded to allow their student to practice these life skills at home. I have a parent that feels that there is too many dials on the washer for her child to handle. I believe there are some steps that could be taken home to make it easier for her student to set the washer.
If my students can learn these skills then I know in my heart I have made a difference in their lives. The real world will not be an easy place for them to live, so all I can do is make it easier.

Seems like life could be very short, and do I take my self seriously? I do to a point but most of the time I am the person who is laid back, and goes with the flow. Do I avoid conflict? Yes I try to at times, who doesn't. To keep myself grounded I make sure that I do some things that I enjoy and am passionate about. If you looked at the title of this blog then you would know that music is a HUGE in my life. I usually am singing in a choir at church, the 2nd City Barbershop Chorus and my quartet 2nd Opinion. that represents 3 rehearsals a week and  seven to eight hours of singing a week. What does that mean to me? It means work, it means patience, fellowship, and most of all FUN.

Barbershop music is a journey, because the music is acapella that means the learning process can be long at times. We do use the piano to learn notes, and have learning tapes with parts available, there are recordings of songs too. The bottom line is when you are singing the chorus we rely on each other to sing the notes right, so the music will sound great. In a quartet singing the right notes is magnified by 100 because there is not one to lean on for your part. You have to sing each note correctly and in tune if you want your quartet to sound good. The magic happens when you can ring a chord and hear that unique sound. The four of us in 2nd Opinion love to hear that sound and we work hard to make that happen. Is it work? Is it hard at times? YES to both, but it is our passion that carries us on.

So I try my best NOT to set my expectations low in all I do, even though I lack the confidence that I need at times. Life is not perfect, but I live mine the best way I can.