Baby Steps

When I began my blog, I was hesitant.  I didn’t feel that as a new principal I would have much to offer readers in terms of advice or learning.  In my first post, I wrote how I decided to press on anyway because of the value found in documenting one’s progression in thought, ideas, and learning.  I thought if nothing else, I knew I would be able to look back on where I began if I documented my steps along the way.

Recently, this reasoning has been confirmed by a podcast I listened to.  In The Productivity Show, Brooks and Mike discuss how to avoid the 6 “Deadly Sins of Productivity.”  One of the sins they discuss is how to avoid is comparing oneself to some ideal that doesn’t exist.  I’ve heard this advice before, but they take it a step further.  They say that this thinking is based on a gap between where you are and where you want to be and that it breeds discontentment.  On the other hand, a more productive way to measure is from where you were to where you are now.  This is measuring the gain.

As I measure the gain I’ve had from where I started with my electronic communication with staff and where I am now, I feel satisfied with my progress.  I know I have more to accomplish, but It’s helpful for me to see where I began to where I am now.  In addition, if I share with others the steps I took from the beginning of the year until now,  they might know where they can start.

I wish I could say that I did these steps purposefully and intentionally, but that is not the case.   I just did what I could when I could.  It’s been all about taking baby steps but keeping my vision in mind so that I could take advantage of any opportunities I get (like a snow day or a 4 ½ hour plane ride) to advance that vision.

First I started with sending out two emails a week to my staff.  I started with an informational email on Fridays to let staff members know what upcoming events and important information for the week ahead.   On Sundays, I sent out an instructional email where I shared instructional thoughts based on what I was seeing in classrooms or what I felt was important in relation to our school initiatives.

Progression of the Friday Informational Email
It started with a linear structure with these subheadings:
Important Information
Things to Turn in
Calendar for the Week

Eventually, I was able to create a living calendar for the remainder of the month and then the remainder year.  I attached a Google Slide to the email with a link to the living calendar so I don’t have to type the Week’s Upcoming events each week in the body of the email.  In the body of the email, I am now including just a few sentences of the “Important Information.”  The Google Slide includes the “Things to Turn in” and “Big Events” for the week.  I also embedded links for anything teachers need to access. Of course, I stole all these ideas from Andrew, the Middle School principal who got them from someone else too.

Progression of the Sunday “Advancing the Vision” email
When I began, the content I sent out each week was in no particular progressive order and the structure of the email varied.  The content was more random because I really hadn’t had time to plan ahead at that point. Then I made the content based on classroom instruction I want to see or saw that week based on my district’s lesson essentials.  As that progressed, the format of emails changed from a random to a predictable structure  with these subheadings:

Vision
This month’s Teambuilder: (From Kagan Cooperative Learning)
This month’s Classbuilder:  (From Kagan Cooperative Learning)
Review from Last Week
What’s Next:
So…now what?
What to Expect When You Are a Teacher at Paint Lick:
You should be able to
You probably will be able to…
You may possibly be able to

I started making the content progress from concrete structures that should be present in all classrooms to digging deeper into the art and science of teaching.

This week I will only send out one email.  Within the body of the Friday email there will only be “Important Information.”  The Google Slide that has been changed to a pdf with live links will include links to a school blog with weekly posts containing instructional content previously sent out on Sundays structured with the above subheadings.  The slide contains the following  links/information:

  • Living Calendar
  • This month’s teambuilder and classbuilder
  • Tech tip
  • Big Events this week
  • What to prepare for
My communication evolution was a case where I didn’t begin with the end in mind. I thought my 2-email-a-week plan was good. I also received feedback from staff that it was. I didn’t know the Google Slide/Living Calendar/school blog options even existed until I went to a principal ed camp at the beginning of the first semester.
In this case, I wasn’t satisfied with good. Once I saw the possibilities I wanted more. I’m glad I didn’t know about those possibilities in August because I might have put undue pressure on myself to meet those expectations right then. From this progression, I learned a valuable lesson that I can use in the future and pass on to others.   Instead of measuring oneself against an ideal, use the ideal as your vision and map out baby steps to get there. Then keep moving. Take those steps slowly then all along measure yourself against the gain instead of the gap.

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