MS Weekly Staff Memo – February 1, 2015

What’s On My Mind
Lately, I’ve been pondering the notion of accountability – accountability for students, accountability for parents, accountability for teachers, accountability for admin.  In a nutshell, what do we expect from each other and then how do we follow through when the other party fails to meet those expectations?  This is tough!  I think we all agree that our aspiration is to be a school of excellence – not a school of excellence in terms of state report cards and standardized test scores and certainly not a school of PERFECTION – but a school of excellence in terms of how closely we are fulfilling the CSD mission and vision on a repeated basis.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that each individual member of our community intends to embody this vision in his/her actions.  The question then becomes, “What do we do when others fall short – or when we, ourselves, fall short?”  Accountability!  This is a complex but necessary ingredient to successful organizations and more importantly, relationships.
I won’t pretend to have all of the answers, but here a few  of my rough thoughts to get us thinking.
1)  Lead with outrage. ~Tom Sergiovanni
This comes from Joy’s presentation on Leadership at Fresh Take.  To me, this means we are so fiercely committed to our mission and vision that we respond passionately when something is in violation of its principles.  This does not mean we are rude, cruel, or impolite.  However, this means we respond with action and are clear with others when/if something could potentially damage/threaten the vision or the community we have worked so hard to build.  Keep in mind, ALL of us are leaders.  Not just Joy, not just Juli (or Leslie or Marianne or Connie).  ALL of us fall into this boat.  So with that label comes tremendous responsibility.  We must have a laser-beam focus on our non-negotiables and then hold ourselves and others accountable when we fall short.  They key is to do this in a loving, nonjudgemental way.  But it takes extreme bravery to do this as it is far easier to look the other way and neglect what needs to be addressed.  So boil this down to our interactions with students.  When we observe behavior that is in contradiction with our expectations, we need to address it.  Otherwise we’re sending the clear message that we “say” one thing but “mean” another.  Which brings me to my next point…
2)  Clear communication.
It all comes back to being clear, concise, and direct in our communications with others, particularly students. I encourage you to consider your role as leader and think about how you are responding (or ask yourself if you are responding) when things are not in accordance with your/our expectations.  What steps are you taking to solve the problem?  Is the student clear on what is expected?  If so, examine why is this infraction continuing to happen.  Which leads me to # 3….
3)  Treat the disease, not the symptom.
We all fall into knee-jerk reactions, myself at the top of the list!  We are busy, harried, frayed, and overwhelmed on many days as our jobs are extremely demanding and highly emotional.  If we can remind ourselves to take a few deep breaths and revisit our core mission and vision, then we are far better equipped to respond in a way that alters the behavior of the student rather than simply ensuring compliance with a rule.  Alfie Kohn talks about this a lot… Are we inspiring people to do the right thing for the right thing’s sake or are we forcing them into a mode of compliance in order to make our lives simpler?  This often leads to symptom treating rather than looking at the bigger picture of the overall disease.  So I encourage you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture before beginning to problem-solve.  And include others in this process!  As Douglas Merrill says, “All of us is smarter than any of us.”  And kids should be involved in this process!  In fact, they should probably drive this process….more to come on Wednesday’s staff meeting…
4)  Practice forgiveness, yet don’t lose sight of high expectations.
Yes, holding ourselves and others accountable is important.  But so are second changes and fresh starts.  No one is perfect, and we’re all bound to make mistakes, but if we can do so in a loving, forgiving environment, our chances of learning, growing, and affecting change for the good are far more likely.  One of my favorite ideas comes from VanGoethe – “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  Pretty powerful stuff!
So ponder these things as you go into next week.  Remember – we are all in this together!  And I can’t think of a finer group of folks to be surrounded by!  Thanks for all of your hard work.  You all truly are a cut above.
Upcoming Events
Monday, February, 2nd
8th Grade Math Placement Meeting – 8:30 in MS Media Center
Parent Advisory at 7:30 at HS
Tuesday, February, 3rd
Joy at K-8 registering rising 9th graders in Leslie’s office
Wednesday, February 4th
Staff Meeting – 3:30 in Dan and Kim’s room – Topic:  “It’s Not Your Problem” – Problem-solving strategies from Michelle Icard
Thursday, February 5th 
Joy at K-8 registering rising 9th graders in Leslie’s office
Friday, February 6th 
Practicum Sharing
Looking Ahead….
2/9/15 – MS Report Cards due to Juli for editing
2/12/15 – Teacher Workday; 6th Grade SLC’s
2/13/15 – Teacher Workday
2/16/15 – President’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
2/18/15 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
2/18/15 – Staff Meeting
2/20/15 – Red Cross Blood Drive  in MS Gym (8th Grade Practicum)
2/23/15 – MS Principal/Parent Coffee Talk – 8:30-9:30 in Media Center
2/23/15 – CSD Lottery – 4:00 p.m. at HS Black Box
3/2/15 – Parent Advisory 7:30 p.m. at HS
3/6/15 – 6th Grade Play
3/12/15 – Teacher Workday; 7th Grade SLC’s
3/13/15 – Teacher Workday
3/27/15 – 8th Grade Civil Rights Museum
3/27/15 – 8th Grade Dance
4/3/15 – Spring Break Begins
4/13/15 – Classes resume
Stole from Leslie, but her words were perfect!
A HUGE thank you to all of you for being so diligent in bringing your rooms up to code for the fire marshall.  I know this was not fun, and made many of you very sad.  However, we so appreciate that even though it makes you sad, you understand the importance of keeping kids safe.  Thank you for being positive about this transition in front of your students even if it makes you sad and angry.  At open houses we talk about how we teach character.  We do not do “honesty” week or “compassion” week.  Instead we teach virtuous behavior by modeling it for our students on a daily basis.  Know that this past week you have given your students many important lessons on how we persevere even if it is something we are not happy about.  Thank you for modeling true character education for your students. If you still need help with anything or have questions let us know and we are happy to help.
The 2nd trimester is coming to a close, so be sure you give yourself ample time to conduct assessments and complete the report cards.  Please send me your narratives as soon as you can so I can publish them to Jupiter.  Report Cards are due by February 9th.  Let me know if you have any questions or need any help!
Professional Development
As you all know, the growth mindset embraces mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.  Here is an interesting take on the different types of mistakes and how they shape us.
This is a terrific info graphic on 8 Things to Look For in Today’s Classroom.  As you look at this, ask yourself where you are hitting the mark and where there is room for growth?  Great stuff here!
In Closing…
Poof.  And just like that, it’s February.  Can you believe how quickly the times flies?  For all of you football fanatics out there, I hope you enjoy tonight’s game and festivities!

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