Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April's Identity Crisis

My months are all messed up these days.  It feels more like November than April to me.  Usually in November, people are extra thankful, the word “grateful” gets thrown around a lot more frequently, and generally speaking, people seem to be genuinely more patient with one another.  I attribute this to my favorite holiday of the year (besides Cinco de Mayo of course), Thanksgiving.  However, on both a professional and personal note, April has been all about gratitude and thanks - and I kind of love that.

Meet Fred.

Fred is our custodian at Penngrove Elementary and Fred is simply the BEST! A few months ago, I was at school WAY too late after a PTA meeting.  As I went to turn off my computer, an email caught my eye, “Last chance for CSEY Nominations” - I didn’t even know what CSEY stood for but for some reason, I opened the email.  While skimming the email, I learned that there were only 24 hours left to nominate any classified employee who demonstrated outstanding service to his/her community.  Fred immediately came to mind.  

To be honest, I get SO many emails on a daily basis and I really struggle with keeping up on them.  In fact, I see opportunities like this all the time where I think, “Oh this would be great to participate in, be a part of, experiment with, etc….” and it pains me that I cannot personally add more hours to the day in order to make all of these possibilities a reality.  Back to my late night office sesh.  On top of already being super late to get home (my husband now knows that, “I’m leaving in 10 minutes” could mean any number of ridiculous things), I was leaving the very next morning at 6am for a conference and I hadn’t even started packing. #typical As tempting as it was to head home, I knew that I had to stay, and complete the nomination packet for Fred. After all, Fred is the best custodian ever. It’s a darn good thing I did stay late because guess what?!  The selection committee chose Fred to be THE finalist and winner of Sonoma County’s Classified Employee of the Year! Curious why? Listen to one of our 6th grade students tell you about Fred. 

It’s moments like these where I feel grateful to work with the people I do, and thankful that I make time to recognize the hard work of those around me. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t even forget anything when I finally got home to pack. And, my husband is still speaking to me. Score!

Staff Meetings: Mix It Up!

This past Wednesday, during our “staff time,” I threw out a bunch of notecards on a table.  Each box of cards was different and unique.  Some were glittery, others were loaded with bright colors, some had printing, others cursive.  But all these cards had one thing in common: a message of thanks. My only instruction to the staff: "Take the next 5 - 10 minutes to thank someone you have really been meaning to thank.  It could be school related, or it could be totally personal, but take some time to share your gratitude."  Oh the joy!  Some teachers looked at me like, “Really?!” and another one exclaimed, “Had I known, I could have brought my list from my wedding shower this past weekend!”  Slow your roll @MsONeil7 :) At the end of the 10 minutes, I had to really pry the thank you cards out of everyone’s hands.  I had just assumed that each person would write one thank you note but they were going buck wild! 

After our staff meeting, one of our team members came up and said, “That was the coolest idea.  Thank you for that.” As he walked away, I thought I caught a glimpse of a card that said, ‘Mama” and I couldn’t help but smile. 

Even I received an unexpected thank you note from one of our 4th grade teachers. Lucky me. Sometimes it's not the gesture of writing the card, or the words themselves, but it's the person behind the words that really make an impact.  In particular, the thank you card pictured here is quite possibly the most meaningful card I have received all school year.  Honest moment here: in the back of my mind, I've always thought Ms. Barrell and I had a solid working relationship. She is helpful, full of great ideas, she speaks her mind, she is adventurous, she is always eager to share "cool things" that her students are doing, and we've even had some fun "personal" conversations.  However, deep down, a piece of me has always been curious to know what Marianne thinks about me.  About my leadership style. About how our school culture is shaping up. About how I barge into her room from time to time to ask her for advice. As a principal, I tell students all the time not to worry about what others think of them.  But after reflecting on this pivotal moment, maybe I should reconsider that "talk." Because on this day, in this instance, it totally mattered to me what Marianne thought and I finally got the answer that I had been looking for. 

Principal’s Day?! What?!

On Wednesday, April 16th, much to my SURPRISE, the staff and students at Penngrove organized “Principal’s Day” and let me tell you - they went ALL out.  Does “Principal’s Day” even exist? I’m not quite sure but I’ll take it!  Not only did the whole school serenade me with their rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” at our morning assembly, but they decorated the entire school with bright colored signs laden with glitter and paint that showed their creativity and love. I was speechless!  Upon returning to my office, I found a HUGE box full of “sunshine” (crazy good gifts that were all themed and yellow and orange), a latte and pastry on my desk, and a variety of special guests and visitors that made the day extra special. Maybe some day I will figure out a way to properly thank @MrsLaw10 who spearheaded this touching day, but for now, all I can do is smile and hold back the tears.

Personally, it can be a challenge for me to be the person on the receiving end of so much gratitude but in the spirit of “Give. Risk. Learn. Trust.” I allowed myself to be put to the test, to soak it all up, and to be present in the moment. What a day. 

And Then There Was May…

With April being full of so much emotion, gratitude, and excitement, I can only imagine what May has in store for our school, our team, and our continued love affair with the art of giving, risking, learning, and trusting together. Happy May.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Surprise Visits. So Much More.

It was just another ordinary day.  I mean, don't get me wrong, it was April Fool's Day which always has me a little nervous at what could or could not happen on campus, but April 1st was just another morning.  I had driven to work around 7:30am, resisting the urge to check emails, text messages or Twitter. That's something that I struggle with often on my drive.  It's the only 25 minutes a day where I have complete solitude and quiet.  Sometimes it feels like the perfect time to "catch up" or "connect" but I really try hard to enjoy the scenery, belt out a few songs, and stay safe.  On this particular morning, I talked to a few colleagues on my drive, got to school, and did our morning announcements before beginning my "office day".  

It wasn't long before my lovely Office Manager said, "Mrs. Fadeji, you have a special guest here!" and low and behold, in walked @EduTrace!!!  Now, let me tell you a little about @EduTrace, also known as Tracy Walker.  Last year, when I was new to Twitter, I started following Tracy because she seemed like a fabulous teacher! We occasionally conversed about different hot topics and favorited each others posts from time to time.  I immediately loved her wit, her spunky personality, and the way she cared about her students.  We finally met face to face at EdCamp Sonoma (there is another one coming up April 12th! Details here) last year and I am pretty positive that I almost took her to the floor with my enthusiastic hug upon first sight! 

Months later, I now consider Tracy a dear friend who I treasure deeply.  We just connected from day one, and I always look forward to any time I get to spend with her.  I've been trying to convince her to bring her children to Penngrove, but the year round schedule and distance from her house makes it nearly impossible.  Selfishly, I just want more of the Walker Clan! Is this an ode to @EduTrace you may be asking, no, not really.  What I want to depict is the special nature of her visit.  

Special April Fool's names on our coffees!
Tracy has two toddlers.  She gets one week off for Spring Break. Her parents are in town visiting. I am SURE she had a list of things to do, people to see, places to visit.  But what did she do on her Tuesday morning?  She surprised me with a venti vanilla latte and visited classrooms with me for a good thirty minutes. She talked to students, she posed for pictures, she connected with teachers.  It was the best 30 minutes of my day.  A precious moment in life when a teacher, whom I admire, took time on her vacation to come give me a hug and scope out my school...just because.  It's moments like these that I am grateful for Twitter, for EdCamps, for all of the many educators who work so hard to facilitate professional connections.  Without these avenues for building a PLN, I may never have met Tracy.  The thought of that alone is difficult, as she challenges me to be a better administrator with her thought-provoking questions, and her innate desire to always be learning more.

I survived April Fool's without anything surprising, wild, scary, or troublesome happening at school. Except for of course, a selfless and sacrificial visit from one of the most lovely people I have met in the past year. Thanks for stopping by for a surprise visit @EduTrace.  To me, your visit was: So Much More.