Back At It

Another school year has started. We have some new staff, many new students, and with that a few new families represented. The school year has started smoothly, but it wouldn’t be a start up if there weren’t a few wrinkles to iron out. Hopefully though, that doesn’t last long.

Our school division has a new superintendent. Some people don’t embrace change, but I generally gain energy from change (however, not quite as much as I did in the first 75% of my teaching career!) I’m looking forward to a new opportunity to learn and grow with her, and to see the great things that are in store for our awesome school division.

I’m hoping my blog entries are a bit more frequent this year. Last year we ended with about 6 weeks of frenzied activity

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as a few emergent things took up most of our time. I know we can never fully prepare for those kinds of things, but I’m looking forward with positivity to a year filled with learning for all!

Darryl Propp

Planning Coherence

Since reading Michael Fullan’s book called, Coherence we’ve started having discussions as a leadership team at my school. I really work in a great place, and many of the things we do here align with what is discussed in the book.

We are a team; we have a high level of trust; we collaborate; we use capacity and develop it. Many of the pieces are in place. I think we are in an ideal place to take the next steps.

We are meeting tomorrow to discuss this. Narrowing down our focus to one or two main things is going to be the first step. There have been conversations happening around this already, and I am excited to see where we go. It’s a great team, and I know the potential for excellence is within us.

I’m looking forward to reporting on our progress as we move forward.
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Coherence

As an admin team we will be spending time with Michael Fullan next week. In preparation, we have been doing some reading, watching videos, and having discussions about his book, ‘Coherence’. I will be blogging more about the time we get to spend with him, but I thought I would put a few short thoughts down ahead of time. It’s also been a long time since I’ve written a blog, so I better get something down!

At my school, we’ve been doing quite a few things that align with Fullan’s ideas, especially around the collaborative cultures. We have put effort into deepening learning, especially around setting goals and capacity building. I would say the areas that we need to have more coherence around are Accountability, and turning I minds toward Clarity of Strategy.

We do have accountability, and need to be careful to ensure tha there is both external and internal accountability. We have come a long way in the last few years in understanding the importance of internal accountability as a driver for change. In my mind, the internal accountability ties into the individual passion and is necessary for powerful change to occur.

 

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I look forward to deepening my understanding in this area as we spend time learning from Michael Fullan, and from each other.

D Propp

 

 

(Graphic is from Michael Fullan’s Website)

It’s a TRAP!

One of the biggest lies we can tell ourselves is, “I can’t do this.” Even though I consider myself to be a very positive, optomistic person, I still fall into this trap sometimes. The work we do in schools is so important, and often very challenging. Everyday we are faced with a myriad of decisions and difficulties. The self talk that we engage in at these times is usually key to the outcome we experience.

It’s very easy to fall into a trap of focusing on the difficulty of each task, and the overwhelming scale of the entire job. The error in doing this is that when we are focusing on the problem we take the focus of our ability to deal with the problem. I know it’s very unlikely that I will encounter a situation that I haven’t handled in one way or another in the past. If I’ve dealt with it before, there’s no reason I can’t deal with it now.

The inner voice needs to say, “I CAN do this!” And, I know I can do it now, because I’ve done it before.  The negative self-talk is just a trap.

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D Propp

No Inherent Value?

Some of my best thoughts come from Twitter. I usually have it open on my desktop at work, and occasionally check it while at home. I came across a tweet the other day that really got me thinking.  (See image below)

What is the value in what we do? If our job doesn’t directly make a difference in the learning and the lives of the teachers and students, are we doing what we are ultimately meant to do? We certainly do things that indirectly affect the students and the teachers. We are often managers who oversee the operations of the school. But even these ultimately affect the teachers and students as the most optimal learning environment is to a large degree based on the comfort of the building and the schedule. We do our best to keep the school safe, because we know that you need to feel safe to work and learn to the best of your ability.

Clearing the way for teachers to become their best self in a school that has a vision and values results is the job we are ultimately tasked to do.

I think the question we need to be asking ourselves daily is, “Are the things I am spending my time on helping teachers do their jobs better?”

I find myself caught up in the busy-ness of the job on a regular basis. I regularly make lists of tasks I need to accomplish. I’m sure most of us do the same. I’m going to try reframing my priorities with this tweet in mind. I need to mindfully put the majority of my energy into those things that help my teachers do the best job they are capable of.
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Thanks to Danny Steele for inspiring this post!

 

D Propp

When the Well is Empty

Time to be open and honest. We talk about mental health a lot, and the openness to the conversation is getting better. Slowly it is getting better. I’m going to share some of my own struggles.

If you are not familiar with Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator it divides people into 16 personality types. Two to five percent of people fall into the category of ENFJ. I am one of those. These people are warm, outgoing, loyal and sensitive. 

  • Extraversion
  • Intuition
  • Feeling
  • Judging

Common Characteristics

  • Prefer harmony to discord
  • Outgoing and Warm Hearted
  • Genuinely interested in the feelings of others
  • Often have a diverse range of friends and acquaintances
  • Great at supporting and encouraging others
  • Excellent Organizers
  • Seek approval from other people

ENFJ people also derive personal satisfaction from helping others. They are givers.

I am a giver. I LOVE helping other people. I like making life easier for other people by removing barriers to their success and clearing the path for them. I like to help them to find ways to explore and develop their passion. I like going out of my way to help other people. It makes me happy.

But there’s a problem. People who are continually giving, can run out of ‘give’. When you can’t give the things that you normally would, it becomes an inward struggle. However, the lack of ability to share these things doesn’t manifest the way you would intuitively think. They aren’t outward manifestations, they are inward. Not being able to care doesn’t become apathy, it manifests as sadness/depression. When you are not able to love, it feels like emptiness. The inability to be generous with time or resources isn’t displayed outwardly as stinginess, it is an inward feeling of desperation.

You do your best to outwardly display who you normally are, but inwardly you are struggling to find the resources to be that person.

I have had this happen a few times in my life, and generally the bouts have been very short term. Within a few days, the well is replenished. The past few months have been tougher than that. I’ve had more of those days. So what to do?

You keep going, you keep giving in whatever capacity you can. But you also take time. You have to replenish the resources, but you have to realize that there aren’t as many resources to give. You do the best you can with what you have. But there’s one more very important thing you have to do.

Talk! Let at least a few bucketpeople know that you are struggling. Be honest about your inability to give as much as you normally give. Let the emotions live. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to feel empty; it’s not okay to have these feelings and never speak of them. That will only make things worse.

The well can’t refill itself immediately. It takes time. I know that I will have more time in July. I can make it until then by finding time and activities that will help refill the tank; the gym, time with friends and loved ones, time with myself, taking photos, going for walks, allowing others to take up a bit of the slack when I can’t (I have many amazing colleagues who are so capable), and talking about it.

Yes, the well is pretty much empty. I admit it.

DP

 

 

 

When Passion has an Impact

It’s taken me a few weeks to get this post written. I’ve been rolling it around in my head for a while.

People who know me know that I love photography. I have my own photography business (that doesn’t make a lot of money), but I love capturing moments in time. In the fall, I did a family photo session for my former vice principal, Kerri.
I photographed the family in their beautiful backyard with different family configurations, and fortunately, the photos turned out quite well.

About a month ago, one of Kerri’s stepdaughters passed away.  I had to attend the funeral to support Kerri and her family during this difficult time. When I arrived at the location of the funeral, Kerri greeted me and immediately took me to a large photo of her three stepdaughters. It was a photo I had taken in the fall, and I was immediately struck by the impact that photo was having on the ceremony and the power it had in communicating the beauty of the family and specifically Nicole. It was an emotional experience for me.

I have spoken before about our obligation as educators to help others find their passion. Each student has to have opportunity to discover that one thing that they love to do, and be allowed to pursue it. That fact was really hit home to me during this time, and I was so humbled to know that something I did made even a small difference in the lives of others.

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Schools need to be responsive to the needs of their students and community. That involves getting to know each student and giving every one of them opportunities to grow and play and discover. Schools need to be rich environments of learning and questioning and finding answers that lead to more questions. Only in places like that can we be certain that we are doing everything we can to ensure that students will be best placed to make those discoveries for themselves.

And as a side point, let’s not forget the importance of being cognizant of the importance of mental health in our day-to-day lives; both in school and in our daily endeavours. We need to do our best to make real connections and do our best to support those who are dealing with mental health issues. Mental health is being discussed now. Let’s keep the conversation going and do everything we can to keep the awareness front and centre.

D Propp