Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Culture, Open Doors, and Breakthroughs

Great. I'm addicted already after writing just 1 blog post.  For days now, I've had the itch to sit down with a piping hot cup of coffee and let the thoughts running through my mind spill onto the screen. However, we all know how it goes, we're busy people. Pulled in thousands of directions and not always having the freedom to spend time on the things we "want."  As if I don't have enough addictions already: Twitter, adorable children, sushi, The Good Wife, and most recently, I've come to terms with the fact that I am completely addicted to surrounding myself with incredibly talented and fun people (#dangerous), NOW this...blogging! You've got to be kidding me. I can barely handle myself these days. I'm sure it's perfectly "normal" to call your friends and chat about what you're going to blog about in your next post right? #dontanswerthat 
Last night, as I sat down to write my school "newsletter" (which I usually loathe since I wait until Tuesday night at 10pm to get started and it gets emailed out first thing Wednesday morning) I decided to go all "blogger" on my newsletter and let's just say, I can hardly wait until next Tuesday night!  I promise, I won't make you read my elementary school newsletter each week but as for this week, you're SO reading it. Don't worry, my Google Doc titled "Blog Ideas" is filling up fast, but for now, I'd love to share with you a glimpse into the life of some shifts taking place at Penngrove Elementary. A place where I have the pleasure of pouring out my heart and soul daily. Enjoy! 
November 6, 2013
Dear Penngrove Families,
Culture is an interesting phenomenon isn't it? We see culture all around us on a daily basis, yet we sometimes don't realize our "culture" because it has become such a part of who we are and how we see the world. When I look around the campus of Penngrove Elementary School, I see evidence of a strong and healthy culture.  I see a culture centered upon student learning, where families feel welcomed and comfortable on campus.  I see a culture where staff members exhaust all resources to be the best they can for their students.  I see a culture where students ask questions because they are curious, and they feel safe in their learning environment.  I see a culture where parents volunteer endlessly and without question to make our jobs so much easier.  I see a culture of respect, compassion, and genuine good will.
As with all healthy school cultures, there are appropriate times for shifts, growth, and even challenges that may test us, but in the end, they make us stronger.  Lately, I have observed a few of these shifts and growing pains as we learn together and make adjustments to our incredibly wonderful school culture for the benefit of our students.  Last week, I had the pleasure of watching our teachers working diligently to understand and dive deeper into the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.  I took a moment to reflect on the huge undertaking that our educators face as we strive to engage our students in new and exciting ways that promote deeper learning.  
I often find myself wondering if I am doing all that I can to support our students and staff members in the classroom and around campus, where the learning is taking place.  Sadly, at times, I know that I fall short of this large responsibility...a responsibility that I take extremely seriously.  Sure I visit classrooms, of course I spend time with teachers and students, and yes, I can even play a mean game of four square every now and then but REALLY, let's be I getting down and dirty when it comes to learning with students? Am I modeling the high expectations that I have for each and every one of our students both academically and socially? 
Being open and honest with you all is something that comes naturally for me.  If you don't know by now, I have an open door policy and I can't imagine how some leaders operate without such a policy.  According to Wikipedia (not my favorite resource), an open door policy encourages openness and transparency.  It fosters an environment of collaboration, high performance, and mutual respect.  An open door policy sustains empowerment and positive morale while improving efficiency, productivity, and growth.  These are all descriptors of things that I want for our school and for our culture.  
In an effort to remain open and transparent with you, I want to let you know about a seminar I attended recently with Ms. Tafoya called Breakthrough Coach Training.  I'll spare you the details of the two day coaching session, but what I will tell you is that the experience drastically opened my eyes to the priorities I need to set not only myself, but for our campus as a whole.  I know some of you are getting nervous because you think the "ch" word is about to come out, yes.... C H A N G E, but, all I can do is think of the famous quote by Margaret Mead  which reads, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Penngrove is committed to constantly looking at ways to improve the educational experiences of our students.  We know that students won't always remember what they were taught, but they WILL remember how they felt along the way. As a function of this commitment, beginning this week, I will be spending two full days every week in classrooms in order to help improve the teaching and learning that happens on a daily basis. Therefore, I may not always be available to speak with you when you drop in or telephone me. However, I really do value communicating with you! So, when you want to reach out to me, please contact Nicole Tafoya (who is doing a wonderful job as our new office manager!) and she will schedule a time for us to talk. My door is still very much open to you.  In fact, it's not only open to you, but it's open to the possibilities that lay before us, the solid foundation that lays behind us, and the culture we shape and mold daily, for the benefit of the most amazing 418 little faces I've come to know and love.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Penngrove and your patience and understanding as we implement these practices! 
Transparently yours,

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