The Engine That Powers Us

Who here loves the movie Office Space? You know the one. Peter Gibbons absolutely hates his job at Initech. He can’t stand his boss:

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(Umm, yeeahhh, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow…) and he sees no purpose in his day to day work.

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(It sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays.)  That is… until he gets hypnotized to help him relax and enjoy life. Well life would have it that his hypnotherapist dies during his session, and Peter is in a permanent state of hypnosis. He is totally carefree. He literally stops caring about work, ensuing in comedic gold for the next hour and a half.

So what’s your point here, Megan? My point is that we can’t go to work every day feeling like Peter Gibbons, or we will surely end up destroying any passion that we have for our profession. Or at least destroying the copy machine.

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At the very least, we should be able to have meeting with the “Bobs,” enthusiastically explaining to them why our work is important. I should be able to let them know what powers me, and how I help power the mission and vision of the company.

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(Ok I think I’ve successfully incorporated a number of my favorite parts of the movie in a somewhat meaningful way.) In all seriousness, if you lack passion, energy, and enthusiasm for your work, chances are, you will have a hard time finding the success you seek. So if you’d like, hang with me for my second of twelve promised blog posts in 2018; this one all about enthusiasm (John Wooden’s second cornerstone in his pyramid of success, to which he describes as “the engine that powers all blocks of the pyramid“). As you read below, I’d invite you to reflect on what powers you.

Enthusiasm

It’s a pretty simple concept at its surface – if you enjoy what you are doing, you are more likely to be successful at it. What’s more difficult, is executing it. That is, sometimes we can get caught up in the day to day negativity, that we forget why having enthusiasm for what we do is so important. February, although the shortest month of the year, can oftentimes feel like the longest at school. Nothing overly exciting happens in February, and it takes great focus on enthusiasm to maintain it. And you know what? The most successful people I know do just that. Before going much further, I want to share a couple of quotes from Wooden, by John Wooden, on his thoughts on enthusiasm.

“You have to like what you’re doing, your heart must be in it. Without enthusiasm you can’t work up to your fullest ability.”

“You must have enthusiasm to prepare and perform with industriousness. Enthusiasm ignites plain old work and transforms it into industriousness.”

One caveat before moving on – I’m not saying that life can’t knock you down. Because it definitely can. We face adversity. Things get tough. But, if you love what you do, it’s easier to bounce back from those curveballs that life throws your way. It’s easier to stay positive during life’s most trying times when you have a genuine enthusiasm for what you do. You know that little phrase, “Fake it ’till you make it?” I believe in this. Let me clarify. I don’t believe in being a “fake” person – I tend to be a very “real” person if you know me. But I also know that as a leader, people can thrive (or not) off of my emotions, so I must try to be enthusiastic about what we do, even when I may not feel like it on a particular day. This is much easier when I have an authentic enjoyment for what I do day in and day out. As John Wooden writes:

“Enthusiasm brushes off on those with whom you come into contact, those you work with and for. You must have enthusiasm, especially if you’re a leader or if you wish to become a leader.”

Nerding Out:

Sometimes, I find that people who love what they do don’t always show enthusiasm for it. Why is this? One answer could be personality. I get that. However, we oftentimes get caught up in wanting to look “cool.” The best educators I know are the ones who don’t give two thoughts about looking silly in front of their students (or maybe more importantly, their colleagues) – yes, even at the high school level. Teachers who go “Owl In” (pardon the pun, our school’s mascot is an Owl..) with their enthusiasm and aren’t afraid to totally “nerd out” and risk looking ridiculous in front of their students are the ones who win over their students’ hearts. This is a concept we try to instill in our students – do what’s right regardless of what others say or think. Don’t get caught up in whether it’s “cool” or not to have great character. Who cares how many “likes” or “streaks” you have on Instagram, Snapchat, etc. What’s more important is whether or not you are a good person. I think that same principle applies to showing enthusiasm for what you do. In fact, this Wooden quote is hanging up in my office:

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Now, I have to say I am not perfect in this regard by a long shot. I, too, get caught up from time to time in wanting to look “cool.” But, once you get to know me, it doesn’t take long to figure out that I’m one of the most uncool people you’ll ever meet. And I’m really ok with it.

Coaching:

You can take me off the court or field, but you’ll never take the coach out of me. So, I’d like to take the next couple of moments to speak to my people. Coaches out there – are your athletes excited to work hard every day? Do you foster a culture of enthusiasm that revolves around the daily grind of the sweat that goes into practice every day? Even through the most difficult drills, conditioning, or even those “teachable moments” that can oftentimes come in the form of tough love, are your kids excited to be there? Are they cheering for each other? Are they lifting each other up? The fundamental drills – are your athletes excited to do them? Do you hear them encouraging one another? Are they there for each other? (I hope at this point, it’s clear that I’m talking to more than simply “coaches.” This philosophy transcends educational roles.)

As a college athlete, I was fortunate to be a part of a team who understood this idea of enthusiasm. Every rep, every ground ball, every practice, I had a team full of student athletes cheering each other on, who loved putting their cleats on every day, who knew our time on the field was precious. We lifted each other up. We cheered. Sometimes, we even got in trouble for telling each other “good job” when it wasn’t deserved (something we still get a good chuckle about today). Softball sometimes gets a bad rap for being “annoying” or “over the top” with the cheering that comes with the sport. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been guilty of being annoyed by some softball cheers. Let’s be honest… there are some doozies out there that I have shut down as a player, coach, and definitely given some eye rolls as a spectator. BUT.. here is what I will say about the cheering that exists within a softball team. When you start a cheer, you are encouraging those around you. You are lifting the enthusiasm level of your team. Another truth bomb… we don’t draw huge crowds for a run-of-the-mill softball game. So… we feed off of one another. The enthusiasm is contagious. And if you spread enthusiasm, you can spread industriousness in those around you. If one “dumb” cheer can lift up one of your teammates, it’s a dumb cheer well spent. Teammates are there to pick each other up, have each other’s backs, let each other know that you believe in them. And you know what? If you allow yourself to feel it.. it can be fun. Like… really fun. But you know what? You can’t be afraid of what others think. (Even those like me who have done some major eye rolling at cheers before – hey.. no one is perfect, just being honest here in this safe space…) When you let judgement of others prevent you from being enthusiastic, you are letting them keep you from your fullest potential. Nerd out. Do it. Don’t apologize for loving what you do, and for having a great time doing it.

I’d be willing to make you a bet. Those ladies that I shared a field with in college – The ones who brought enthusiasm to every practice, every conditioning session, every game, every mental training… I bet they are bringing that same enthusiasm with them in their professions today. Because being enthusiastic is a skill that has been engrained in us. It’s what we know how to do. For my ESU softball alum reading this… Can I Get A Whoo Haa?

My Challenge For You

As I conclude this blog post, I want ask you this – what do you do to foster enthusiasm in your job? Or what can you do to create a culture of enthusiasm like my team had in college? We so often get bogged down in the day-to-day things that can be downright HARD, and it can take a toll! Enthusiasm can fade, and it can fade quickly. I’m guilty of it, no doubt! I’ll ask you again, what do you do, or what can you do to revive the enthusiasm in your daily work? And if it is so mundane to you that you don’t know how to answer that question, I can’t help but ask – is it time to re-think how you do what you do? I’m not telling you to quit whatever it is that you do. What I’m asking is, is it time for a re-birth in what you do? Do you need something to revive your passion? To reignite the fire that used to be there? If the answer to those questions is yes, I don’t have the magic solution, as every case of unenthusiastic-itis is unique. However, I’d be willing to bet that with some soul searching (and maybe even some internet searching), you can find a project, an angle, a philosophy, a SOMETHING to get excited about. And if you’re thinking to yourself, maybe nothing at this point can give you enthusiasm for what you do, and you’re overall miserable in your career, then I will go ahead and direct you to this quote from Wooden.

“…I believe it’s true in any profession. If you’re knocking it all the time, get out!  Don’t whine, complain, or criticize. Just leave.”

I can tell you, at least if you’re in the world of education, there are so many ways to find yourself again. To revive the love and passion you have for this profession. For me, it comes in many forms as an administrator. Getting into classrooms, seeing excellent teaching in action, interacting with kids, implementing positive behavior supports, learning as much as I can to stay on the cutting-edge of education, just to name a few. I nerd out about those things, and I take no shame in it. I challenge you to find the passion within you, find resources to feed that passion, and learn. Learn and implement. Even if it means flipping everything that you’ve ever known about teaching on its head. You don’t have to take a giant leap into something to feel reignited. You just have to take the first step.

Enthusiasm helps us find the joy. Enthusiasm means we have found a purpose. Enthusiasm helps us get through the hard days. Enthusiasm turns our hard work into something we love. Enthusiasm, as John Wooden says, powers us.

Thanks for reading! Here is to hoping you have as much enthusiasm for your profession as Milton does for his red stapler.

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(: Megan

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No Substitute for Hard Work

“Industriousness is the most conscientious, assiduous, and inspired type of work. A willingness to, an appetite for, hard work must be present for success. Without it you have nothing to build on.” – John Wooden, “Wooden”

I dare you to find a profession that is full of more industriousness than education. I’m not knocking other professions here, I know several people who are extremely hard workers and are not educators. I just happen to know a plethora of teachers. And they work so, so hard.  As the first cornerstone in John Wooden’s Pyramid for Success, I couldn’t ask for a more fitting topic to start my first of twelve promised blog posts in 2018.

“I call it industriousness to make very clear it involves more than merely showing up and going through the motions. Many people who tell you they worked all day weren’t really working very hard at all, certainly not to the fullest extent of their abilities.” – John Wooden, “Wooden”

I could pull quotes from Wooden all day long, but then it wouldn’t be much of a blog post, so much as excerpts from one of my all-time favorite books. My main point here is that teachers, administrators, counselors, and educators of all sorts are some of the hardest workers you will ever meet. Join me as I reflect over seven months of work that has gone into opening a brand new high school that attempts to move the needle a little bit at a time to redefine how education is done here in Kansas.

A New Endeavor

Opening a brand new high school is something that I will never forget. I will have to dedicate an entire blog post to this topic at some point in the future, but for now I will highlight the industriousness that I have seen day in and day out from my colleagues. I will break this up into some sub-categories for your reading pleasure. 🙂 Just know that when I show up to work every day, I am inspired by the hard work that goes on around me, and the hard work put in by the adults in our building will transcend past the current students in our building, and will help shape how education is done in the future.

Project Based Learning – A Transformation

When our school opened its doors to students this August, several teachers dedicated themselves to teaching in a new way, which was Project Based Learning. For those who may not be in the education world, or who may not be familiar with PBL, this is much different than simply “doing projects” in a typical class. The projects become the class. Instruction is done through the project, the teacher takes on more of a facilitator role, students engage in sustained inquiry, engage in their communities, and strive to answer driving questions that are linked to content area standards. It’s a complete over-haul of a traditional classroom, and something we’ve been encouraging our teachers to try – even if it’s only bits and pieces of it. The mere thought of transforming all you’ve ever known about teaching is overwhelming, and the hard work that goes into executing it is unparalleled. Take a look really quickly at some of the hard work that our teachers have completed in the realm of PBL so far this year:

"Give What You Have To Give"

In this English II Pre-AP project, students worked for the better part of a semester working in groups of how they could make our school a better place. The theme was “giving back” to somehow enhance what is already in progress at Olathe West. As a culminating activity, students gave (super impressive) presentations to outside guests – administrators, community members, parents, etc. I saw presentations on a school coffee shop, a giving tree, a leadership club, and even a proposal to add a slide from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor in our building. The amount of work that went into this project by both our teacher and her students was simply impressive.

"Chemistry Night"

One of our chemistry instructors hosted a community event one evening showcasing the projects that his students had put together over the past several months. The amount of sheer effort to organize such an event is outrageous. Not only are you giving up your own time on a weeknight, but several “unseen hours” that go into planning, promoting, preparing. The turnout from parents, community members, and experts in the field was outstanding.

"Law Enforcement Recruitment"

One of the flagship programs in our school is our Public Safety Academy. Our facilitator for this program has really jumped into PBL and his ongoing PBL unit for the first semester was for his students to create a recruiting tool and propose its use to different agencies. Over a course of two nights, Public Safety students presented their products to agencies such as the Olathe Police Department, the FBI, Secret Service, and more. Can you imagine? No, really. Can you imagine the time and effort that goes into pulling something like that off? Incredible.

"Owls in the Kitchen"

Now this one was really cool. Our culinary teacher hosted multiple evenings where students could cook for their loved ones. She invited their families into our school and their students cooked for them. If anything brings people together to slow down from life’s crazy pace to just sit and enjoy each other’s company, it’s a meal with loved ones. This was nothing required of this teacher, but something she wanted to do to foster the culture of her program. Amazing.

"Social Justice"

Students in an English 1 class spent several months researching an aspect of social injustice. They then had to think of possible solutions and what they can do to be a part of the solution. They wrote a research paper and presented their findings to district leadership, school leaders, parents, and community stakeholders. They included a digital component to their presentation, fielded questions, and dressed professionally. To say they rose to the occasion is an understatement. How did they do this, you may ask? Through a lot of hard work put in by their teacher, that’s how.

"Give a Hoot"

I know I said the last one was really cool, but this one was a whole school effort. We have a couple of staff members that prepare advisory lessons for our school each week. (Advisory is a time each week for students to get with their advisory teacher, go through activities to help map out their future, among other activities.) Our advisory teacher-leaders created a “Give a Hoot” campaign where each advisory chose their own community service project and completed it over a period of about 3 weeks or so. We had toy drives, clothing drives, adopt-a-families, trips to the elementary school, trash picker-uppers, window cleaners and more. All advisories participated in something. Hard work at its core.

I hope it’s starting to become clear that teachers teach things that go beyond the textbook, beyond the walls of our school. The combination of passion and hard work yields some of the most amazing things you’ll ever see.

Technology

I’ve blogged before on how technology can enhance what a teacher does in their classes. When it goes hand-in-hand with effective pedagogy, it can turn a “basic” lesson into something so “extra.” (Pardon my attempt to try to use the lingo of our students.)

Perhaps something that I haven’t touched base on is the amount of hard work that goes into properly and effectively implementing technology into the classroom. Our students at Olathe West each have a school-issued computer. That’s great, right? Yes, it’s great. It’s an amazing opportunity to transform the way learning is done. And with that, comes a tremendous amount of work on the part of teachers to learn the ways in which this is done effectively. A tremendous amount of work to learn new tips and tricks to classroom management. A tremendous amount of work to learn effective tools vs ineffective tools. A tremendous amount of work to re-create solid lesson plans into something more relevant to today’s students.  A tremendous amount of work to balance that technology with teaching soft skills/employability skills. You find me a teacher that effectively integrates technology, higher order thinking skills, solid pedagogy, and soft skills all in one, and I’ll show you a tremendously hard worker. My hat is off to you, teachers who I just described.

English Language Learners

I want to give a quick shout out to all the ELL teachers out there in the universe. You know who you are. You know your work is hard. You know the industriousness that goes into your every. single. day. You very well could have  6 lesson plans going on simultaneously in your classroom. You find a way to teach students who have just come to our country, students who have not had any formal education in 8 years, students who are on the cusp of leaving a sheltered classroom, students who are spreading their wings and flourishing in mainstream classes, and everything in between. You want a lesson in differentiation? Visit an ELL classroom for a day. I respect all that you do.

Special Education

How about another shout out to our special education compadres working incredibly hard to meet the individual needs of each and every one of their unique students? Whether a learning disability, emotional disturbance, behavior disorder, gifted, or more – your patience, compassion, and hard work does not go unnoticed. Your kids need you. They love you. And you love them back. It’s not easy. But you do it with a smile. YOU work hard.

General education teachers, I have not forgotten about you. You find a way to reach up to 30+ students of all sorts of abilities and language proficiencies in a given lesson plan. You modify curriculum, accommodate for our students in need, plan amazing lessons, put in extra hours to make sure all of your students can access your curriculum. Your hard work does not go unnoticed. Thank you.

Mental Health

Where to even begin? Our students need us now more than ever. Teachers today are not only teaching their content, but soft skills such as how to persevere when times are hard, personal responsibility, growth mindset, collaboration, creativity – the list goes on and on. Additionally, teachers are concerned about the mental health of their students. Our counseling and administrative teams work through our SIT process every week to identify students who need extra support and come up with action plans to help them as we can. More than once this school year I have received a call over a weekend where a teacher was concerned about a student’s well-being. Partnering with our counselors and school resource officer, we work to ensure the safety of our students.

If you know a school counselor, give them a hug. The heavy stuff they hear on a daily basis might shock you. While their hearts are breaking, they work with students to give them social and emotional skills to make it through what life has handed them. Thank you, counselors.

Additionally, our counselors work to provide for our students in need not only throughout the holiday seasons, but all year long utilizing resources and programs both inside and outside of our district. This kind of work to ensure our students are taken care of is not easy. It’s hard. Really hard.

Extra, Extra..

I could write forever on the value of extracurricular activities that teachers and schools provide for students. (In fact I may have blogged about it once.) However, I cant talk about the hard work that goes into education without at least mentioning the extra hours that coaches and activity sponsors and club sponsors put in on a daily basis. Between practices, meetings, games, performances, concerts, community service, and competitions, our teachers are doing more and more to prepare the whole child for life after high school. Students have so many opportunities to get involved in SOMETHING that they can relate to, and we know that the more a student is involved and connected to their school, the more likely they are to find academic success as well. This is all thanks to a lot of industriousness on behalf of our teachers. Not only do they put hours and hours of hard work into extracurriculars, they work to foster the best team, activity, performance possible.

Professional Learning Communities

In addition to creating inspiring lesson plans, caring for the wide array of students in each class, and fostering students’ mental health, teachers do more work behind the scenes than one can imagine. Our teachers meet weekly in their Professional Learning Communities. In these meetings, we model our work after the book Learning by Doing (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many) in the sense that we are looking at content standards, breaking them into learning targets, using them to create common formative assessments, then using those assessments to determine our path – how to reach students who don’t understand, and how to extend those who do. That’s the nature of our work. It’s not a matter of going to last year’s lesson and hitting “copy/paste.” But rather, it’s looking at the standards, realizing what students know and don’t know, and let the art and science of teaching take us from there. I’m a firm believe that those who can, teach.

Professional Development

The world of education is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. To stay on the cutting edge of education is difficult. Just as you feel as though you are hitting your stride with the latest and greatest teaching strategies, there is a shift, a turn, an enhancement – something to keep you on your toes. The best teachers are the best learners. Teachers who have a growth mindset, are willing to take risks, learn new ways of doing things are often the most successful. Because that takes industriousness – hard work with a purpose – to do what’s best for kids. My promise to my teachers is to do my part to provide you with what I can with best teaching practices, new ways of doing things, encouraging you to take risks, try new things, and to be a reflective practitioner. I hope to do well by you.

#AdminLife

Let it be known that the glory of this post goes to the teachers that work day in and day out with ALL of our kids. They inspire me on a daily basis. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the extremely hard work put in by the admin team that I work with day in and day out.  Each of us has a well defined role, and I’m very fortunate to be part of such an amazing team. The extra hours that these men put in is unparalleled. Each one willing to help each other out, even if it means more work for them. Each one of them has a unique skill set that they put to work every day. Imagine the hours that our athletic director and activities director have put in starting up brand new programs in literally every single sport and activity that a school has to offer. Then there is our principal and facilities AP who put in more hours than what seems like humanly possible to make sure our school is physically up and running, advocating day in and day out for our students and teachers. The two of them started this school from the ground up. Additionally, let’s not forget the hours put in by all of them, attending events, reaching out to community members, meeting with parents, and all the things that happen outside of the 8-3 school day. When I think of what John Wooden means by, “There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile things come only from work,” I think of my admin team.

My Personal Reflections

I’ve taken up enough of your time for the time being, so I’ll keep this portion short. As a working mom of three, I like to think that I work hard. It’s one of the things that I value most. But I know that I’m not working any harder than any of my counterparts out there, our hard work might just come in various forms. As for me, I’ll strive to work as hard as I can to lead those in our school as well as my family to be the best possible versions of themselves. I may not always accomplish this, but you better believe I’ll be working for it.

Thanks for reading,
Megan

Wooden It Be Nice?

Happy New Year! I hope those that are reading this had a restful and enjoyable break for the holidays, and are starting the new year refreshed, revived, and ready to take on whatever 2018 has to bring!

As I have been reading through blogs and tweets of educators that inspire me, I’ve been soaking in the words they chose for their “One Word” — that is, the word they’ve chosen to serve as a theme or goal for the upcoming year. I’ve never been one to set New Year’s Resolutions, but I do enjoy reading about how people hope to shape their year around a  principle they hold close to their hearts.

Now, knowing myself, if I chose a word, it would probably get lost in the shuffle after about a month or so. (I mean, have you seen how good I am at blogging after I claim that I’m going to start trying to do better?…) Sometimes life takes over, and some things, like resolutions and One Words get out of focus for me. However, I am going to try something this year. I’m going to have Twelve Words. (Say What?!?) Ok, hear me out.

I have a passion for a handful of things in life. One of which is teaching and learning, and another, leadership. Mix this with the fact that I think John Wooden is one of the best role models in coaching (read: life), and an idea was born.

John Wooden is famous for many things, one of which is his Pyramid of Success. In this Pyramid, Wooden uses building blocks of character traits that build up to what it takes to be successful in sports, leadership, and in life. Here’s what I plan to do throughout 2018: I’m going to focus on one of the building blocks per month, and blog about my observations here at school and/or in my own life. That is, I hope to blog about the amazing things are happening in our school that reflect the given word for the month, and how I am focusing on being intentional in that quality.

Through this, I hope to become more aware of the good around me. I say it all the time – our school is amazing filled with amazing people. But now I want to be purposeful about seeing it in action. I also hope to hone in my own skills in a Wooden type of way. I believe that by being intentional in each of the building blocks that I choose, I can continue to reflect, learn, and grow as an educator. I hope to never be complacent in my professional life – there is always something to be learned and improved upon.

As it turns out, there are actually 15 building blocks to Wooden’s pyramid, which doesn’t fit so nicely in a 12-month year, so I have chosen what I believe to be the most essential and prominent things that I see in education. Perhaps someday I’ll look to grow in the three that I didn’t choose. At any rate, here is a lineup of what I hope to blog about each month:

January – Industriousness (Really Hard Work)

February – Friendship

March – Loyalty

April – Cooperation

May – Enthusiasm

June – Initiative

July – Intentness

August – Condition (“The Choices You Make, Make You”)

September – Skill

October – Team Spirit

November – Poise

December – Competitive Greatness

(The ones I’m leaving out – for now – are: Self Control, Alertness, Confidence. Each of these is vital to success, perhaps a great way to start 2019? We shall see.)

I hope you’ll join me on this journey this year in 2018. I’m excited to combine a few things that I like to “nerd out” about – school, leadership, and of course John Wooden. Best wishes to you and yours in 2018!

-Megan