Taking a Page from The Goonies


This past January I set my one word for the year as “Health,” hoping it would capture all parts of my life that I hoped to improve:  My physique and being proactive against illness, my emotional health and getting to a place where I feel able to just be me without the anxiety, and a healthy relationship with my husband, kids, and others who are near and dear to me. Although the one word helped to keep it as a focus and not simply a resolution to abandon after the first failure, it left an unsettling sense of all that I was still NOT doing. The motivation of the word didn’t focus me on improvement, but instead created an ongoing list of to-dos in my mind and a picture of what I hoped to be that was so starkly in contrast to where I was/am at. Needless to say, that type of thinking was the unhealthy mindset that I was looking to grow out of.

This past spring, steeped in the stress of wrapping up a school year chock full of performances and planning for the year ahead, I found myself tweaking my word from an all-or-nothing “Health” to that of “self preservation.” The shift has been a powerful one, allowing me to think of how to set limits on my time and energy I give to others — ultimately allowing me to (one day!) channel that preserved energy into doing those activities and fostering those relationships with others that were at the core of my wish to be more healthy in the first place. Eureka…so why am I still stuck in the same place of trying to squeeze it all in so I can measure up?

As I shared in my previous post, my trip out east to Philly gave me so much food for thought and I find myself still almost two weeks later reflecting on how to put it all into action. Todd Neslony and Brad Gustofson shared in their session the fallacy of “time” and how often we, as leaders, moms, dads, Americans, use the excuse of not having time. In fact, Todd argued, we make the time for the things that we prioritize. This struck me because I realized that I don’t have a difficult time prioritizing my time while at school. With my Wonder Woman cape securely in place, I would never think of saying to a parent/staff member/student, “Ooooh…I really have so much shopping to do for my son’s birthday party and can’t get to you. Sorry!” or “I’m sorry, but I really had a stressful time at home last night/this morning and just can’t even deal with this.” Coming home, however, how often are the roles shifted and I brush off my kids or husband who are looking to connect with me, but see the toll of the school day all over my face? At times, the only way to stop the work priority list of to-dos is to grab a glass of wine and to check out with some nonsense TV. In the interest of self preservation, how do we stop allowing work to wiggle its way to the top of my priority list. Each and every time.


One thing that I took from a conversation with Danny Bauer and a recent Principals in Action challenge is to remove gmail from my phone. The fact that it’s there, always available at the quick click of an icon allows for me to (even briefly) check in to work…and check out of being present at home. Don’t get me wrong, removing it (even the thought of removing it) left me so anxious about what I’d miss from work. How sad that I’ve never been anxious about missing out on something the kids are doing – sad, but not like, “What if something happens and I don’t find out about it until tomorrow?” Why not take that same comfort in knowing that those who need to get a hold of me can and will? And so now, when I make the conscious decision to tackle some work at home, it will require me to bust out the laptop and commit to it — rather than let it steal so many moments from my “free” time. This July I will share this with my staff members and will urge them to do the same for the sake of their preservationScreen Shot 2017-07-20 at 2.36.16 PM

I will also consciously battle to take that reclaimed time and spend some of it on me. Rather than grab a glass of wine to mentally unplug for the night, I’m going to try a meditation app for ten minutes or take a walk with a podcast. Our initial worry as moms is to feel like that time is selfish after spending a long day at work. If I prioritize that time for me and then follow it up with focused, prioritized time on those relationships and being present at home, I am optimistic that they will see someone who can model a more healthy balance…rather than someone who is “helping” with math homework while trying to answer back a quick email while internally trash-talking herself for not getting the dog walked. We make time for those things that matter to us, but for me it’s more about making the time matter.

Cheers to progress, self discovery, self preservation, and getting priorities back in check!

And now for the Truffle Shuffle…



Leadership Amnesia – Finding My Identity

I could sit and write (and write…and write!) for days about the many things I pulled away from my trip this past week to Philly for that National Principals Conference. To say that the trip far exceeded my expectations would be an epic understatement. How surreal it was to sit and have a drink with someone who pipes into your ears via Voxer or a podcast that I follow religiously each week. Here they were, looking to learn about and from me as well. Wild! In addition to learning more things to bring back to my practice in my building, the true magic of the trip was in the self-reflection and self-discovery I found during the five days away from the hustle and bustle of juggling all the things that await me at home.

About a week before leaving for Philly, I had a chance to read through the stack of leadership magazines that have accumulated in my office since spring break. One article, “Is Your School Better Because You Lead It?” stood out to me as something that I wanted to dive into with my leadership coach this summer. In the article, Baruti Kafele challenges leaders to consider their identity, their mission, and to really think on whether or not that propels the school in a direction that is good for all. I remember considering my mission and philosophy for how I lead each time I went in to interview for a principal position, but after having been an elementary school principal for six years I wondered what identity really drives my thinking and interactions with students, staff, and my community. The absence of that identity left me feeling a bit lost, but equally paranoid that this was something I should have solidified. What if I “picked” the wrong one? What if the one I chose wasn’t in line with how I live when I really look back? When I saw the speaker/session lineup included Principal Kafele, I knew that the stars had aligned and I need to be there — and he did not disappoint!

As I sat listening to Principal Kafele share that his identity was as motivator to those he encountered at school (and clearly now into his identity as a speaker for educators), I was struck by how obvious my identity at work should have been to me. Almost a year ago I joined a Voxer and Twitter group called Moms as Principals (MAPS) – a place where we talk about our lives at school and “balancing” them with our lives as parents and partners with other at home. I had always separated the two, however, despite the fact that I have always honored the impact that motherhood has had on my interactions with those at school. In that moment on Sunday morning, it occurred to me that my identity as a principal was actually that OF MOM. I even laughed when I recalled the many times I’ve shared with my students that I am their at-school mom. Duh! The very notion of being “mom” at school seem so simple, but embodies the complex needs of being a leaders and a mom.

With my students, I tell them that I will be their biggest cheerleader each and every day. Haircuts are “wowed…” loose teeth are celebrated…and hugs are given and accepted freely and wholeheartedly. I often find myself in the nurse’s office consoling a kiddo who needs nothing more in the moment than a mom – to rub his/her back, to smooth his/her hair, to make a silly joke about poop, or to just say an affectionate “Hang in there, honey. It’s going to be OK. We’ll take care of you.” Similarly, my students know that I give a wicked stink-eye and have the knack of hearing, sensing, and knowing when things are amiss. They also know that I will be quick to share my disappointment when the inevitable mistakes are made, but that I still love them and that tomorrow will be a fresh start. I hope to always make both the positive moments and the mistakes memorable and deeply rooted in the same hopes I have for my own kids at home.

My identity as a mom does not stop at the students. Upon reflection, I find that my hope to have an open door for staff to come in and talk about things also embodies that same identity. I can remember picking up the phone to call my own mom before she passed away to talk about the ins and outs of my day, my struggles, my celebrations, my relationships — just hoping to have someone on the other end who pauses and listens, prompting me with questions (even critical ones) when necessary and plenty of hugs to share when needed as well. I know that I naturally do this for many of my staff members and hope that me crystalizing this sense of “mom” at school will help me to nurture that side and to cultivate that relationship with all staff members. There is so much more to leading a school than what appears on the report card, and cultivating a family at school keeps us all feeling like working in education is our mission and not simply work.

I need to move forward and share this identity more purposefully with my parents as well. I often find myself sharing personal anecdotes to those families who feel like they’re screwing something up (Aren’t we all!?) and see the sense of relief when they know they’re not in the parenting game alone. I hope that articulating my identity as a mom will also come with some tenets that I hold to so that they know where I come from in my actions and my motivation for supporting their life’s treasure — their kids.

This articulation is the next step in my journey of self-reflection this summer, but it’s work that’s as important as writing the Title I plan for the year and making sure the master schedule is in place and ready to roll. Principal Kafele remarked that in sports, teams and coaches study films each and every day to learn how to be the most effective, but noted that we don’t often study ourselves. Similarly, self-reflection for self-reflection’s sake is not beneficial unless it is used to make adjustments in our practices to make ourselves better. I’m excited and renewed about how this discovery of my identity as mom will allow me to question my actions, interactions, and success is my building. Here’s to the exhale that comes with knowing that my two worlds and identities of home and school are not separate, but rather compliment one another!

The Power of Thought to Catapult Us Through “Farch”

images-4.jpgMother Nature has certainly treated us to a dose of natural Lexipro this past week, doting on us with oodles of Vitamin D and tantalizing temperatures outside. My hairy legs were not ready for the unveiling of my pasty white ankles, but it has certainly been a welcome smile for the soul – particularly because this is the typical crotch of the year. It is the for finishing up evaluations and putting Band-Aids on the staff, students, and our own kids at home who are unravelling after being cooped up during the winter months and whose holiday spirit has been snuffed out. A middle schooler, gutter-dweller at heart, it is why I giggled when I heard one of my MAPS crew refer to this time of year as “Farch.”

Determined to make it through with a positive attitude, I stepped out this afternoon for a run (a term I use very loosely to describe anything that requires a sports bra) and a podcast. One of the podcasts I subscribe to and can’t live without is Invisibilia. In it, the hosts explore “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” If you haven’t yet discovered it, I highly recommend it – and it is even void of the NPResque voices that are found in many of their other podcasts (per the curmudgeon-y Tom Hutchison). At any rate, the episode fate dealt me today was about the power of the expectations that we both have for ourselves and those that we have for others. The episode opened talking about a rat race…an actual rat race, though the irony of the situation was not lost on me. I digress. In the example, the way that the owners viewed the rat, either as a smart or as a dumb rat, actually played a huge factor in how quickly the rat finished the maze. What they thought of their rats influence the minute ways that the handlers touched and interacted with the rats, influencing the actual performance of the rats. This led to the conversation about the impact of this finding on the human world. If it holds true, the power of the finding can have profound ripples on the impact we can have as building leaders both as those who radiate expectations and those who try to live up to the expectations others set for us.

Certainly the mindset that we bring to any challenge, whether it be a student, a difficult staff member, or hiccups in our lives at home can play a large role in how we come to see the situation. Imagine the power of walking into any given situation with positive expectations the permeate all we do. It’s easier to have that psychological stamina early on in the year, but trickier as we get swallowed in “Farch.” I began asking myself how often I set my expectation for the moment based on my expectation that this is a rough time of year. Rather than committing to this energy, what would life be like if (like the handlers in the rat maze) I approached each day with those mindful touches based in my confidence that it was a day destined for success? It is this mindset that we hope our teachers bring to each interaction with each child in their classroom. Why not purposefully model it as building leaders, and sit back and watch the magic happen – even in “Farch?”

Equally important is how we consider all of those expectations that others have for us. As the Invisibilia host put it, “as you go through the world, the expectations of other people are constantly acting on you literally making you stronger or weaker, faster or slower, smarter or dumber.” How important is it to carefully choose then those expectations we choose to acknowledge? For those of us who get fixated at times in trying to make sure our constituents are happy and have an internal dialogue of problem solving ways to undo the crazy of others, imagine that that we are fueling the impact of their expectations on ourselves — rendering us weaker, slower, and less effective. Instead, tune out the noise of the naysayers. What if we gave our energy to the power of our tribe’s rallying cries, making us stronger, faster, and the superheroes that we are capable of being? If those positive expectations can make rats run a maze twice as quickly, there’s no telling what it could do for those of us if we would just get out of our heads.

So as we charge through these weeks leading up to Spring Break, do so with gusto and with the wind others push into your sails. Thanks to those in my tribe who lift me up and believe that under this Ann Taylor button down is a giant “S”! positivity-pledge-the-power-of-positive-thinkin.jpg

2016 – The Year in Review

As a building principal, it’s tough to really look back on the twelve months that were 2016. My vision is flooded by the snapshots and vignettes that are August through December. If July feels eons ago, I don’t have a chance of recollecting what March looked like! Nonetheless, the past four months or so have been quite a transitional time in my career and personal life. Pardon what will be undoubtedly a rambling stream of thought. Like everything else, I’m jumping in with both feet on this first post!

On the home front, I am killing it as the mom of a middle schooler…a daughter to boot! Though my sarcasm is thick as I write this, I’m convinced that anyone who believes they are actually killing it as a parent of a pre-teen must be spiking his/her coffee in the morning (and afternoon, and evening). The hardest part of it all is that, as parents, we transport ourselves back to the angst of our own middle school years in the hopes that we can somehow use the wisdom of our own emotional bumps and bruises to protect our kids from getting their own. I find myself repeating the mantra to my daughter, “Kyra, play it cool. Just BE!” and then cringing later when I realize that 1) She sent a needy, insecure text and that 2) My mantras are  undoubtedly driving that insecurity. And so, as I head into the new year with the word “Healthy” on my brain, I know that building a healthy sense of self in my little lady is just as important as eating plenty of greens and fruits.

If you had asked me last year at this time how I was feeling about work, you would have found me perched atop the fence between staying and doing some curriculum work. Thankfully, several people have come into my life to leave me feeling grounded in my work as a principal. Fate put a silly Twitter book in my hands this summer in response to my need to constantly be learning something new. Less than a week later, I stumbled across Lindsy and the #momsasprincipals hashtag, and life changed. My “tribe,” a Voxer group of fellow MAPs, has become an overwhelmingly positive force in my life and in my ability to thrive in my role. Though I start out each year with the hope of staying (irritatingly) optimistic through whatever life hands me, this crew gives me the ideas, the ears to listen, and the cheerleaders to stay firmly rooted in that promise. Thank you to those of you who may read this and who have been along on this ride with me, as you’ve given me the comfort of knowing I’m right where I need to be.

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Looking forward, I am energized and (yes, irritatingly) optimistic about what’s ahead. I hope that my focus on HEALTH in the year ahead will keep me centered on physical health, but also the emotional health of myself, my own children, and my marriage – and important factor, as I’m not sure what I’d do without my rock who supports me! I’m eager to continue this journey of blogging to hopefully document what’s on my mind, behind the “smile and nod curtain” that is my role as a principal. Thanks for the nudge, and cheers to a positive, healthy 2017!

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