Be the Million Dollar Decision

I remember my hiring day vividly.  Jubilation for me and feelings of betrayal to the small community that did not get the teacher they had hoped for… the one that they nurtured through the district as a child, the one that learned from them, tackled hours in the classrooms with them, and was hand picked to complete a long term sub position that very spring.  I was the new girl in town.  The unknown.  The crazy redhead ready to take on the world with one very big smile.  The one who wore a pale pink suit with matching shoes to my interview to stand out from the traditional black.  The one who didn’t know a single teacher to lean on or to have a glimmer into the mindset of a school not yet connected to technology.

I was not from the district… not from the county.  This was NOT common practice.  I was the Junie B. Jones, the Clementine, the Outsider.

Fast forward to 2016… the hiring process was about to begin and the buzz among the teachers was  intense.  Each had their own connections and experiences with whom they felt would best serve…

Ummmm…

well that is where I stop and question.  Best serve… who?

students?

or them as teachers?

See the perfect sub kept the ball rolling.  The perfect sub completed the task left by the teacher.  The perfect sub kept children quiet and out of trouble.  The perfect sub was compliant and maintained perfectly compliant learners.  So what’s wrong with that?  Who wouldn’t want to return from an absence to the work completed and no behavioral reports?

I was  with several of my colleagues when an intense discussion unfolded… one that included our then new Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jacie Maslyk.  Teachers started asking about the possible new hires and with all due respect Jacie just listened and did not comment.  Then one teacher decided to throw out their pitch to have a particular substitute hired, which then opened the door to other names of “future ready colleagues”.  This is when it happened…

With confidence like no other, without hesitation and very matter of fact, Jacie said,

“You need to understand that every hire is a Million Dollar Decision!” 

Mic Drop! or was that a pin?

Silence settled over the room.  Their eyes told a story.  Were they thinking what I was thinking?  Were they wondering the same thing as me in that very moment?

I sat there wondering, after 21 years of teaching… if I were interviewed today… WOULD I BE THE MILLION DOLLAR DECISION?  I immediately knew the answer… NO!  I was sick to my stomach.  What had happened to me?  Why wasn’t I good enough anymore?  (This was not a pity party… this was legit!)  More importantly, what on earth was I going to do to be BETTER?

PERSONAL CALL TO ACTION!  I believe You must DO BETTER to BE BETTER! (spin on Maya Angelou)  Where would I start?  Who do I ask?

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I started in-house by taking Jacie up on whatever she had to offer.  Summer PD, opportunity to visit other classrooms, visit other schools, be a part of a team of teachers within the county striving for innovation, reading her book STEAMMakers, and yes,  I joined twitter as Jacie had challenged each of us to do.

Now find time.  I hadn’t read a book in years! GOALS!  I was going to read this book… her book!  I became engaged in the material… the words were jumping off the page because they reminded me of my childhood… I was a maker, as all children should be.  My game changer with that book came when I was looking for a bookmark.  I glanced at a dollar bill that I had laying on the table next to me.  That was it… The Million Dollar Moment!  I quickly snatched it up, folded in in half, and placed it in the book.  That dollar became my reminder.  My incentive.  My mirror… if I were interviewed today, would I be the Million Dollar Decision?

I wasn’t in that moment, but I was determined to be.

Joining Twitter: CLICK HERE to connect with me

Why was joining twitter the biggest game changer?  Well for one, I was as good as I was nurtured to be within my district, and this one is on me.  (I own it because I was waiting for others to impact my learning when I could have been empowering myself all along to be better).  I always took on new initiatives, I always volunteered, and I always tried new things.  So why wasn’t this enough?

Simple… there was SO MUCH MORE OUT THERE!  Twitter gave me a connection to discussion on NEW topics, opportunities to connect with others that opened doors to my learning, EdCamps galore, and an array of conferences that would fit me.  Twitter helped me build relationships.  These relationships opened my eyes to new ways that I could learn by reading life changing books such as Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess, EMPOWER by A.J. Juliani and Jon Spencer, and so many more.  It gave me a chance to find EDUrelevance behind SnapChat by creating BookSnaps with Tara Martin.  It encouraged me to join learning platforms such as IMMOOC, DitchSUMMIT, and personal Voxer Chats with an array of educators.  Twitter connected me with society… entrepreneurs, universities, and businesses.

My journey over the last year and a half has set me on the right path… the one that takes me from hire to retire.  The one that helped me point my EDUcompass in the right direction.

Do you want to be the MILLION DOLLAR DECISION for your students?  What questions are you asking yourself to fulfill that vision, that goal, that EDUresponsibility?  After inquiring as to what questions may come into play with hiring today, I was left struck by the following:

  1. How do you use technology to enhance your instruction?  Not add to instruction, but infuse.  Not what YOU use it to instruct, but how your STUDENTS use it to create.
  2. How do you collaborate with others… beyond the four walls of your building?
  3. What is your digital-footprint?  If your name was googled what would the world find?  What would it tell the world about you as a person and educator?
  4. What are you reading?  How has it impacted you?  your teaching?

I was hired by the Hopewell Area School District on a beautiful sun shiny day in 1997.  Why did I get hired?  I believe on that day, I was the Million Dollar Decision

Today, I am ready for another interview, are you?    

#IMMOOC Week 3: Permission=Trust; Without it We Have Nothing

TRUST: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

This is the one word that can make or break a relationship… all relationships!  Do you trust me?  Do you trust that I have your best interest at heart?  Do you feel it in my core?  I know that when I look in your eyes I am conveying trust.  When I tell you that I honestly believe that taking a chance on change can lead to amazing things.  Do you see it?  Do you hear it in my voice?  The confidence I have to make this decision.  The grit that runs deep in my soul that will take this to a new level.  Do you trust me? #truth

Years ago, I remember laughing with my colleague as we took in the advice of asking for forgiveness rather than permission.  The laugh was half-hearted because we felt the true depth of not being trusted.  If you had asked anyone if we were trustworthy, the answer/word spoken would have been yes, yet when we tried moving forward we were continuously met with the word/action of no.  I wish I could say that I was always able to take the higher road, but I am human and found myself breaking.  I looked to bid to other positions or to possibly leave the district as a whole.  I wanted to find innovation the easy way in place of creating it with roadblocks at every turn.  Where was my grit then?  It was there, but “the innovation-squelching effect of no” was “spreading like wildfire” in ME! -Innovator’s Mindset #truth

THE POWER OF “NO” VERSUSES A CULTURE OF “YES -Innovator’s Mindset

This didn’t just end with me.  The power behind no stayed with me and I found myself saying it more and more within my classroom and within my building.  How did I take “no” and spread it like a virus so quickly?  I had always been a YES GIRL!  Yes, I can make that happen!  Yes, I would love another student teacher!  Yes, I can have that done in no time!  Yes turned to no.  I told myself it was a compliance issue, a form of respect that I simply had to follow the rules, but was it?  Was I being spiteful?  Was I using my restrictions and limitations as an excuse for not being innovative?  Did I take this word “no” so personally that I then stepped down from committees and took on the negative attitude of… get someone else to do it?  What was happening to me?  I don’t suppose the onlookers saw this as clear as I do now.  I love what I do too much to allow that to truly be seen.  But I felt it.  I felt it in my core.  I am positive you could see it in my eyes.  The glow wasn’t there… the drive had been stolen from me with one repeated word… NO! #truth

CHANGE CAN HAPPEN ONE PERSON AT A TIME -Innovator’s Mindset

I looked over and saw my new Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jacie Maslyk standing in the doorway.  I walked over.  She asked me what I would like to see happening in my classroom.  I chuckled.  The same half-hearted laugh I had become accustom to at “work”.

Side note:  My passion for teaching had been sucked out of me and for the first time I found myself going to work each day.

Was she serious?  Does she really want to know?  Do I TRUST her?  If I open my heart and tell her how I really feel will this be another smoke blowing session or does she truly care?  Is she setting me up?  Is she going to take my words and use them against me?  Or does she actually see me as an “investment in place of an expenditure?”

I took a chance.  I saw the trust in her eyes.  She cared… I could feel it!  I opened up and told her I wanted to break down the walls to learning!  I wanted to go beyond the compliance that had been demanded of me.  I wanted to relight the energy in my students… I WANTED TO LIGHT THE WORLD ON FIRE! Okay, so maybe those weren’t my exact words, but I promise you she felt the message.

And that is when it happened… I decided to once again ask for permission.  Do you know what she said…  “Why not, we wont know unless we try!”  I started reading book after book.  I got on Twitter and started building my #PLN that turned into my #PLF.  I jumped into educational chats and found myself looking up the definition to #IMMOOC for the first time.  I felt my soul on fire… I was ready to Teach Like A Pirate again.  Thank you Dave Burgess!

“Our job sometimes, is simply to be the spark, help build confidence, and then get out of the way.” -Innovator’s Mindset

On that day, Dr. Jacie Maslyk was my spark!  She believed in me.  She trusted me.  She has built a trust WITH me and in turn we have relit the spark in our children, continue to build confidence, and are getting out of the way!

Is this #truth or am I just blowing smoke?  Well, a few weeks ago I was surprised by Chevron/Steelers with Week 1 Leader in the Classroom Award.  This award was beyond anything that I could have imagined.  It wasn’t for years of service or for having a big heart and loving my students (which has always been a given), it was for remaking learning… for being INNOVATIVE in the classroom.  I was blessed to receive $1,000, a Steelers’ authentic jersey, tickets to an upcoming Steelers vs Patriots game, and front page of the Sunday paper.  Beyond all of the beautiful gifts that were presented to me, the one that meant the most was when I heard “Leader of Innovation in the Classroom“.  That my friends, is the biggest YES ever!

“IF WE WANT MEANINGFUL CHANGE, WE HAVE TO MAKE A CONNECTION TO THE HEART BEFORE WE CAN MAKE A CONNECTION TO THE MIND”

-Innovator’s Mindset

#IMMOOC Week 1: Setback or Serendipity: choosing the road less traveled.

Overcoming adversity builds T.R.U.E.G.R.I.T … small setbacks build character.  Setbacks come in different forms, especially in education.  Many see change as a setback, something that will disappoint and have complications.  The fear of change has always had an influence on the mood of teachers, students, and parents alike.  You can see it in a person’s eyes.  The fear that creeps over them when you are trying to explain what is about to take place.  The questions forming in their minds with every word spoken.  You find yourself in that moment choosing which road you are going to travel.

Do you continue to move ahead with change or do you comply and conform?  Do you actually have a choice?

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Have you ever sat in your first in-service day of the year to hear the changes that are coming your way?  The kind of change that is done just for the sake of change and not necessarily for the better.  You find your entire body tightening up as if  you cannot take one more word.  You wonder how all your optimism could possibly leave your body in 20 seconds or less.  You spend the following hours telling yourself to wipe away the negativity so that you can get back to your happy place.  The place where you just redecorated your classroom that awaits smiling, optimistic, and excited children.  Is this a setback?  My guess is that the change in which creates that tense feeling is most often not change for the better,

I’m one to choose the road less traveled.  Yet compliancy is at the forefront.  Compliance is not just a term we use with students.  It has been a professional responsibility that has inhibited my teaching and growth for many years forcing me back on a one lane highway… traveling in one direction with head on traffic.  George Couros (author of Innovator’s Mindset) states, “Compliance does not foster innovation.  In fact, demanding conformity does quite the opposite.”  Where was George when I needed him for his perspective?  The right perspective can help make the impossible possible!

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” ― Shel Silverstein

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Then there was the in-service day that did change!  The one that went from a hot sticky auditorium (with a lecture on how we need to be better before we even get our fresh start) to an air-conditioned banquet hall with the high school’s marching band loudly playing the fight song just for their teachers.  The change that gives you chills and resets your inspirational compass so that it points straight forward.  My guess is that the change that gives you chills is the kind that George Couros is talking about… Innovation!  The kind that has your innovative administration ( Dr. Jacie Maslyk  Dr. Michelle Miller #PLF) challenging you to open a #twitter account and connect with other educators in the crusade to remake learning.   The kind of administration that TRUSTS you with social media.

What about that change?  George Couros says, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.” #InnovatorsMindset

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My current administration has brought on many changes… positive changes… innovative changes!  We now have permission to choose how we will teach the common core standards in our own individual classrooms in place of being on the same page, on the same day, just like all other classrooms in the district.  We now have tech-fest where lead learners step up and share their knowledge to help push our district forward.  We now have trust to choose #flexibleseating as an option for a learning environment that challenges and encourages all children.   We now have permission to blend our curriculum so that we are no longer teaching the same concepts in 3 different subject areas according to the map.  We now have district goals to engage all students every day, all day- to show purpose, passion, and pride in school and throughout the community.  This change is AMAZING!

For me it is always my mindset that turns things around.  Setback or serendipity? I’ll choose the road less traveled!  As George Couros says, “We need to make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear.”

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