Leading with the “I” – Inactively – Doesn’t Work.

March 2, 2018 at Woodbridge High School brought the Professional Development Day “Everyone Leads” to our School District, and I have to admit, I am still getting used to seeing everyone in the School District so many times when we had not as much chance to do so in such a large institution at the American School Foundation in Mexico City.  Yet, when we did in Mexico, I realized how amazing, dynamic, and stocked with potential the district itself was – and I realized that today again.

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One of the best parts was seeing our inner lobby packed with booths representing each school, ECC, Elementary, Middle, and High, and with the tokens, and contests waiting for each school’s faculty, it added some lightness to being in school during a Professional Development Day.

As always you saw the overall leadership plan from Donna Hall implemented by Kylie Cross one of the first individuals there – getting tables, packages all ready with the maintenance along with our own Kent Chase and Kelley Thompson, and you started to get the first taste of the sentiment “rolling up your sleeves and jumping in.”  I will come back to this but realized, it is one thing to present an idea, but another to walk the walk, talk the talk, and actually jump in and be a leader by example.  That takes guts, determination, and just “ooompf” this is often lost on the delegation part, but the follow through is what makes a leader, at least what I have experienced through the 46 years in this world.

Often some of the most important activity is what you don’t see as well.  The tech setup for so many presentations, connectivity, lab use, Chrome Books and more, amazing.  Out IT was on it and above it – they ROCKED the day as well.  Add to that the well the maintenance prepared, maintained, and restored the school to remaining to look like an absolute mansion, and you have another case of how these amazing groups keeps an event running seamlessly without what seems effort, with a WHOLE lot of effort into everything.

Opening with keynote Dr. Jackie Wilson, while it is always difficult to start in the AM, Dr. Wilson took us through a geographical journey of her own life to where she has come to in Delaware today.  I distinctly remember creating Life Maps in English as a prep to the biographical essay, and making sure the students remembered that they played a role in their writing.  They had voice.  They had a history that often is forgotten in the scheme of so many thins to do, to get done, hurdles to jump over, and when you look back on your life even 10 years later, you wish you would have taken more time to stop and remember what got you to this point.  You realize this later.  I was lucky enough to reflect on all the crazy moments that have brought me here today, and am grateful for all of those moments, good and bad, and the chance to reflect on that in lieu of Ms. Wilson’s experiences and how these personal and life-long experiences brought her to present a testimony to the power of leading, following, and education.

Moving into my first session, I was lucky enough to attend Ms. Jennifer Fisher’s session Writing Across the Curriculum.  Now when you first see this you might think “Oh my gosh, seriously? First thing a typical PD workshop on something PD’ish? 

Anything but.  There is a reason she was nominated for Teacher of the Year this year, and this is a HUGE clue.

Her walk through PBL Learning – it is, was, and has always been the gospel.  I have ALWAYS believed, said, and preached, the difference between and educator and teacher is what you do with that title.  DO.  Absolutely Do.  Putting an idea of what the students need to learn in their hands and have them ACTIVELY involved with every single concept within a unit.  Have students be first hand creators of lessons you bring to the classroom and 1000 other aspects I have admired in educators that have influenced me became real again – from Mr. Neutrelle in Butler Junior High, to Penny Austin-Richardson at Seaford High, to amazing leaders that jump in like Teruhi Yohioka, Hugo Cabrera Basurto, Paloma Fuentes, Kristin Dixie, Melinda Duryea, Dr. Joseph McCarren, Natalie Dorfeld, Kimberly Miller, and countless more educators that simply jump in and show the human side to teaching, by DOING – Ms Fisher easily became a representative of this with her co presenters.  I thought – Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a Betsy Devos that represented education by showing weekly pulling up your sleeves and DOING rather than random appearing behind a podium?  Even a president?  Some of our Leaders could be MUCH more effective and have a voice from taking a lesson from educators and parents that surround us.  take a look at Lisa Blunt Rochester.  Phone casts where people can join, newsletters, updates, calling you PERSONALLY on the phone when you contact her, and that is just in a week!  LOL – that is my type of transparent legislator that represents all that education should be day in and day out.

In ending this workshop, we had over 10 amazing ideas in front of us that could be implemented and involve students and faculty, and parents, and community, and (you get the idea) – and that is what education is about, everyone leading in their own way and producing an understanding from DOING.  Doing. Doing.  Delegating AND DOING.  Not a hard concept, but harder to DO for some.  The site www.bie.org is a definite resource for starting this approach to education and making a difference.

I was privileged to be asked to present alongside Ryan Curl and Shannon Cathcart about Google and the human side of it as well.  Yes there is a human side my friends. Despite Ryan being an Eagles fan and me a Pittsburgh native, (that turned out well bringing PA Championship back to the Superbowl era, thanks Eagles, you rocked!) and Shannon nervous and thinking she was not a presenter (turns out she was!) – I realized that we can present the amazing levels of collaboration that Google enables, but unless there is follow through individually with those concepts, and a way to connect the possibility of collaboration with those IDEAS, that is all they are, ideas and they go nowhere without a willingness to offer more beyond the ideas.

With the session Everybody Loves Everybody, just simply classic.  I didn’t think first at how much this matters being in the gym but oh. Wow.  I should have never stuffed myself with lunch the way I did. (HOLY COW – the lunch was AMAZING by the way, pulled pork sandwiches, dessert that was AMAZING, iced tea that hit the spot, and – a hundred other reasons why this caterer should be always used! – (I will find out more on who this was and let ya know) – Thanks to Pam Gordy of “My turn to cook, catering”  302-875-7907 myturntocook@yahoo.com  – but I digress –

The physical activity that was exerted bringing individuals we did not know together for one common aim was – enlightening, and Super fun.  Often the simple ice breakers are okay but result in groans when mentally you have to think about that happening . Physically jumping into an activity, and having to as others depend on you, helps bypass the preconceptions you have of what the term icebreaker means then changes that to overall collaborative FUN.  I realized a few key things :

1) HAVE FUN and that should be the basis of every single unit of instruction (that usually does NOT include worksheets). 

2) I was OUT OF SHAPE and needed to do something about that PRONTO. 

3) Being a part of a group, laughing, and DOING made the difference in how you see everything, each other, and the future.  

If this workshop did not seal the deal on making sure every lesson, every single lesson within a unit will be effective if it takes in the whole person (physically, collaboratively, letting each person lead at least once, and so much more) – then nothing would.  Kudos to Ian Daws and the workshop leaders of Everybody loves Everybody  that made this workshop happen.  We need a yearly faculty competition, be it kickball, soccer, or SOMETHING, lol.

Of course, meeting back in the auditorium at the end of the day on the note from Superintendent Heath Chasanov and addressing the upcoming school violence protest, walkout, and upcoming events around this issue, the reminder that the world crashes in and forces you to act was real.  Yet, there was a silver lining.  Receiving a WHS golf umbrella was AMAZING as a gift (perfect timing that day –  – I love large umbrellas and yeah, the one I purchased at U of D and could not get back to Mexico (cough, Tammy Pham – are we gong to see that umbrella this week?  But speaking of a lady that worked her opportunities to the bones and became successful after leaving Seaford – she ROCKED the opportunity as a DOER!)  reminded me, we definitely can be protected from the criticisms of standing up and DOING things by buying into making a change by DOING – and banding together to do so.  

Change is definitely in the wind on so many fronts my people that are ruled, governed, and criticized by individuals who criticize but do nothing.  Inactivity and criticism from individuals that criticize, govern, and rule and DO nothing?  They produce nothing.  The movers and shakers that are not afraid to confront the mundane, the norm, the consensus, that cause much of noise and back up that noice with action, they might not at first, but they will change everything in time.  Thank goodness.  I am blessed to see an amazing colleague and former WHS alumni, Kelli Duncan wade through a sea of students every day that clamor for success.  Despite being faced with a power tower of papers, she walks out, addresses students one on one, and in return receives a sea of students that ask her advice, tips, and keys for passing in areas of (my hardest subject – Math) and gives them hope.  Heck, she has enough to do without giving the time she needs to get items done and yet, that motion of being visible and offering a chance of hope to get through the struggle at hand motivates students to push on. I see this every day and reminds me, a Media Specialist Librarian uses their desk to contain the things that can be done every minute of the day – possibilities, and so that means so far from neat you cannot imagine.  My students remind me of this every day, but the desk is a symbol of where you are as an educator, and willing to be, for the students that surround that desk.  if you stay behind that desk and decide that is the best part of education, you are missing the WHOLE POINT and experience of what education needs to bring to those affected by it.

I look back and remember the jump into WHS this year in the middle of – get ready for it – Senior Project. HUGE LEARNING CURVE, but it helped me find out what the needs of students are in a hurry, HUGE asset. Okay let out the groans and let me fast forward to 4 months later.  All that scrambling, struggling, frustration etc, I watched every single student GROW within 5 months and figuring out how to work things out from that senior project, POWERFUL and connected once you figure out a topic students internalize, work out frustrations through, and truly mimic real life as close as you can possibly get, I realized as an educator and Media Specialist Librarian how valuable a senior project is and can tie so many learning strides together for students.  Heck, I have seen it happen through the IB Program, through the amazing paths Penny-Austin Richardson led to discovery for so many students, and this is yet one more example of how a project, becoming real, can actually educator rather than lecture.  HUGE DIFFERENCE.  After 16 years of being in education you tend to see things and learn things – most people can’t handle 5 years or even one in a classroom, I think educators should be involved more in decisions than those that do not spend more than 5 hours, days, or minutes in a classroom, don’t you?

That one letter of “I” means everything, when it comes to Doing and Leading.  From local 5k’s that will happen and have happened, to events that spread out from your local public library and connect with schools, to collaborating with educators and students in another country and embracing the differences that together make a country great and do not cause division, to simply devoting an hour a day to changing someone else’s world and making a little better, 1:00 AM, 5:00 PM, Lunch time at school, those moments when the buzzer goes off in the morning, each of us have a chance to change everything, and you put us together, we realize that “Everyone Leads” if motivated to do so.




About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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1 Response to Leading with the “I” – Inactively – Doesn’t Work.

  1. Harry Brake says:

    From Kylie Cross – “I’m so happy that you enjoyed the PD day. Donna and I were able to attend one of Jackie’s sessions together (Leadership Styles Through the Movies) and when we were looking over the leadership styles, I easily pinpointed that Donna is a ‘servant’ style leader. She somehow manages to stretch meager dollars we have to ensure that the curriculum we provide is the very best, and she puts a lot of emphasis on making sure that our teachers and staff are provided with the tools they need to continuously improve. I’m very impressed by the spirit in which she approaches education. She said to me: Children are not inherently excited to learn things like long division, it is OUR job as educators to make it fun, to find new ways to engage them. And I think that style really shined through in the PD day. She asked the Assistant Principals to plan a PD day that was engaging and fun, and I think they really made that happen. “

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